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I am born and raised in the Netherlands. As a child I saw my dad suffering deeply from his experience as a child in WW II, an experience that he never talked about till a few years ago.

2015-05-04 - Koning WIllem Alexander en Koningin Maxima tijdens de Nationale herdenking op de Dam. ANP ROYAL

Every May 4 the Dutch people commemorate those who died in WW II and the aftermath of WW II’s devastation, with 2-minutes of silence. We as a family sat together at 8:00 pm and watched the solemn national ceremony on television.

As a child the night before, every May 3, when everyone was asleep, I would sneak down to the living room, take out a book of war heroes and look at the picture of my dad’s dad. He had been part of the resistance movement that smuggled Allied pilots into safety during Nazi occupation. In September 1944, right before my dad’s 11th birthday, the Nazis arrested my grandfather. He died in prison 10 days later. My grandfather left behind his wife and 10 children.

2004-01-15: FOTO: GPD/PHIL NIJHUIS

My dad recently told me that my grandfather “stood up for compassion, inclusion and care for those who are vulnerable” and that “he died for his principles.”

As a child, I didn’t have the words to describe the inheritance my dad had passed down to me, even though my lifelong connection to compassion shows I was strongly impacted by it. As a small child, I spent hours rescuing hedgehogs and blackbirds caught in the nets around my father’s raspberry bushes. At 12, I inspired my class to “adopt” Diego, a boy in Colombia, through Plan International, and collected our monthly donations for him and his village. At 30, I joined Pax Christi to bring refugee children in Croatian refugee camps to the Netherlands for 3-weeks of peace and safety.

At 51, I now have a special dedication  to bring compassion, empathy and mindfulness to couples in divorce. I specialize in helping them maintain mutual respect.

This is my contribution to transform conflict into respectful understanding, right here, right now.

I hope I can leave the world a better place, and honor the legacy of my granddad.

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