This weekend I hosted Leo. He is a from Costa Rica and cycling from Denmark to Madrid in one month. So last night he arrived, tired and cold looking for a home. That’s the thing I like about Couchsurfing. You always have a home somewhere around the world. Hospitality is not a complicating thing. You offer you home as a place to stay for people who need it. In return you have access to plenty of homes during your own travels and adventures. Sometimes I wish peace was that simple.
I don’t think the Netherlands is very known for it’s hospitality. We might be known for journeying around the world. In this case I don’t only mean that in a positive way. We might have made our mark in the world centuries ago by sailing around the world, people were definitely not always treat fairly and with respect. Having said that, nothing much has changed. Racism and discrimination are happening today based on stereotypes of not knowing the other and fear. Just to name some examples: violence against black people in the United States or pretty much anywhere else in the world. Women are treated like replaceable toys. Arabs and Jews don’t talk to each other. Fat people are lazy.
So you might agree with me that this is not okay. That these are stereotypes based on wrong assumptions. Yet I have learned over the years in meeting people, following training, reading about social psychology studies and observing the world around me, that discrimination is so much more subtle.
But why is it okay to ask me the question why two young woman would host a middle-aged man from Costa Rica in their home?
Isn’t that also a form of sexism? Having this idea that you can’t trust a stranger. Simply because A. you have never met him before, B. he is from another country and C. he is male. Asking that question doesn’t fit into my definition of living a life were I treat people as people, regardless of their skin colour, nationality, gender or religion. I am not saying that I don’t discriminate, because I think everyone does. It might not always be conscious, but it is undeniably there.
How do you fight it? I try just to act kindly to each and everyone in this world. Does that mean I am some sort of superwoman that saves the whole world. I wish that was true… I just keep it small. It can be as simple as offering my home to anyone who needs it. Just like Leo did last night. His gratitude was enough for me to realise that no matter how messed up the world might be, kindness is so much bigger.
So I signed the tiny Dutch flag and so did my sister. Our names will travel through Belgium, France and Spain. Along the way I hope Leo will meet many more people that treat him kindly and receive him in their homes with open arms.