Editor's letter

Contagious enthusiasm is what creates progress

Jurriaan Kamp | April 2006 issue

When I was young, I used to have a pair of slippers with leather soles. The upper part was a colourful pattern of knitted wool. Those leather soles were important. They meant I could slide along the slippery wood floors of my house. I remember skating circles around the dining room table with my hands behind my back—just like my idols did on the ice. My hero was Dutch skater Ard Schenk, who won three gold meals at the Sapporo Olympic Winter Games in 1972. Unlike Olympic skating star Johann Olav Koss, interviewed in this issue of Ode, I never wondered why you’d actually want to skate round and round an ice rink.

I remember that Ard Schenk later began appearing in my neighbourhood on Saturdays. Around the corner from my home was a halfway house for drug addicts and Schenk used to lead them on runs through the nearby woods. All those laps around the track had led not only to Olympic medals, but to his involvement in social challenges.

Johann Olav Koss discovered through his skating that he could make an original contribution to combatting world poverty. He now brings sports and a sense of hope to countries afflicted by hunger and conflict as part of the organization Right To Play.

Schenk and Koss are inspiring examples of passionate people. If you can passionately dedicate yourself to a sport, you can also feel passion for other challenges. I think a lot of pain and injustice in the world as well as mistakes and finger pointing come from a lack of passion—a lack of real love for a good cause. People who can’t find their own passions have a tendency to get in the way of others who do.

It is my experience that passion is contagious. Recently, a friend of mine was bursting with enthusiasm as he told me he was preparing for his first marathon. You should know that I really like sports, but that I only run if I really have to (to chase a ball, for instance). And yet after that conversation I felt moved—my friend’s inspiration inspired me. Not to do the same thing, but to do what I’m passionate about—such as putting out a magazine about the need for better stories. Contagious enthusiasm is the beginning of progress. It is the opposite of the all-too-often-used strategy of mobilizing people by inspiring fear.

This enthusiasm makes you vulnerable, as vulnerable as skating around the dining room table in your slippers with the illusion that you’re racing in the Olympics. But I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that for anything.

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