Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The small, unexpected elements of life are charming additions that I am working harder to recognize. I don’t know that one can force these to happen more frequently, often I find that they are a result of something overlooked or casual mistake. What I do know is that the more they are appreciated, the more often they are noticed.
In the fall of 2017, I traveled to Europe to visit a few friends. These friends were kind enough to offer up a spare bed most every night. During my entire trip, in fact, there was only a single night when I would stay in a hostel in Amsterdam. As any responsible traveler would, I waited until the last minute to find this hostel.
With the best places picked off, I hurriedly chose an affordable hostel in the middle of town. After the initial booking, I didn’t think of it any further until I was running down the dark and rainy streets of Amsterdam, phone in hand, searching for my hostel. In Amsterdam, it is rather easy to tell which part of town you are in after a certain time of night. Most places where people live go dark, the shopping areas are lit up with yellow lights and then there is the aptly named Red Light District. In this part of town, window shopping includes drugs and prostitutes right along side pastries and graphic tees, all beneath a dark glow of red light.
That night, as I ran through the streets, I noticed the yellow lights slowly fading to red. Shortly after entering the Red Light District, with the sprinkling rain turning into a downpour, I burst through the door of my hostel and into a small room with a large painting of… Jesus? Somehow, I had managed to book the only Christian hostel on this side of town, perhaps in the whole town even. Needless to say, I was surprised to find Christian literature various references to Jesus in a district of brothels.
I found out later that the mission of this hostel was to recruit employees from abroad that were hoping to live in The Netherlands. After talking with the staff it I learned that often new workers originally came to Amsterdam to get away from something, but instead of finding all the offerings of the Red Light District, they found community. This hostel didn’t seek to condemn, only to be present.
The stark contrast between the inside of the hostel and the surrounding streets was almost overwhelming. I walked around the Red Light District for several hours that night, many parts of which are rather charming and filled with history. Nevertheless, the inside of the hostel remained a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
I believe we are capable of being this kind of pleasant surprise. How often do we shine a different light simply by being available and present? How often are you a happy accident in someone’s day? Does the way you act make others consider life in a way they hadn’t expected? Often times we have the opportunity to be a haven for others, a personality that stands out in a sea of indifference.
Could stumbling into you turn out to be someone’s happy accident, something unexpected?