The Little Dutch Boy Phenomenon
In the past ten days I have sent more emails to each individual U.S. Senator than I have in my entire life. There are 97 of them with email addresses; the three freshmen are waiting for theirs. The first batch went to all 97 individually protesting the effort to eliminate the Independent Office of Ethics. The next batch went to all 97 protesting the budget resolution meant to gut the Affordable Care Act. Then I sent a series to each member of each cabinet vetting committee for Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, Andrew Puzder, and Tom Price urging them to vote no for the nomination. Next, 24 emails went out to Elizabeth Warren and her 23 co-sponsors of The President Conflict of Interest Act. Those were thank you messages for the senators having the courage to sponsor such a bill. That was followed by emails to the remaining 73 senators urging them to vote for the bill’s passage.
While I felt good about this activity, I also started feeling ill. I read about each of the cabinet nominees so I could craft a knowledgeable protest message. What I learned made me so sad. Watching the maneuvering of the Republican senators trying to force nominee hearings without all the background checks complete, made me ill. Listening to reports coming out regarding Russian hacking, Trump’s possible involvement, Russia having compromising information about Trump made me really feel ill. Trump’s never-ending childish tweets be it a response to Meryl Streep’s call to action or him ranting about “false news” coming out of Russia or lambasting SNL was so unbecoming to the leader of the United States. Then today Trump declares he will not divest himself of his business interests. His two sons will run the enterprise and he just won’t talk to them about it. Really?
The unrelenting bad news about Trump and the incoming administration felt overwhelming. My efforts of protest seem ridiculous and pointless in face of this onslaught of bad behavior. In fact I was feeling like the little Dutch boy where fable tells us a little guy was going to school and noticed a leak in a dam. He decides to block the leak by putting his finger into the hole. But then a second leak appears, then a third, and then a fourth until the boy has used all ten fingers trying to stop up the leaks. But the next leak appears and the boy cannot do anything more; the final leak causes the dam to break sweeping the boy and the town away.
I was feeling pretty wilted by that tale when suddenly my curious part said, “That was a pretty sad ending with no moral to the story. Aren’t fables supposed to teach something good?” So I decided to look up The Little Dutch Boy Story. There are a number of versions but I am including the one below because it represents common themes found in most of them. Here goes:
The Little Dutch Boy
Hans ran and ran, past the fields of tulips and past the windmills. His small wooden shoes clicked and clacked against the brick road and kept his feet warm and dry from the sloshy mud and puddles. Hans was still running when he passed one of the many dikes. Something did not look right. Hans crept closer to the dike to see. There, in the middle of the high stone wall, in a crack between the stone blocks, was a small hole. From the hole seeped a small trickle of water.
While Hans knew that the dripping water looked harmless, he also knew that the water building up behind the great wall would push at the tiny hole until it became bigger and bigger. Soon it would let the water come rushing through, washing away the town. Hans knew he had to do something. Thinking quickly, he stuck his fist into the hole, plugging it up.
While Hans stood at the leaking dike with his fist stuck in the hole, his hand the only thing keeping the water from washing away the town of Haarlem, his mother waited and worried. Hans’s mother did not know the trouble that her son had discovered. She did not know that he was stuck in the middle of the raging storm, soaked to the bone from the rain, and chilled through his wet clothes by the wild, whipping wind.
“Hans!” she called from the door of their house. “Hans, where are you?”
If only her husband were home, she thought. He could venture into the storm and find their beloved son. But her husband was not home. There was no one to bravely find her poor, lost Hans. Little did she know that Hans was showing bravery of his own.
The rain kept pelting Hans, and the wind continued to swirl. But still the boy kept his hand plugged in the hole. He knew that in order to save his town, he could not let the water break through the dike.
But Hans had grown so cold. He shivered and shook. His hand had grown so tired and numb. He had to get home. But he couldn’t leave the dike.
“Help!” Hans called out. “Someone help me! The dike is going to burst! Help!”
But the wind drowned out Hans’s cries. He was sure nobody had heard him. There would be no help. Suddenly, standing before him was old Mr. Jansen.
“I heard you calling, Hans,” the old man said. He picked up a stone, and with it plugged the hole.
“My lad,” said Mr. Jansen, “let’s get you home. And then I’ll tell everyone of the boy who saved the town!”
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Now that is a very different story — a very different story. There is a terrible storm pelting our country now. There are holes appearing in the rights and values and laws that have kept this country safe. There are lots of us brave little Dutch boys and girls plugging up the holes and though we feel we are alone, we are not. We are reaching out to one another via Facebook, social media, town meetings, protests, churches, in a variety of ways saying , “Help!” and help is coming or we have to believe it will come. And one day we can hug one another and tell each other stories about the boys and girls who saved this country.
I am going to go look for the next little hole I can plug. Thank you, beloved curious part. You brought me back into the light.