LETTER TO MY CHILDREN
Dear Kaspar, Filippa, and Cosima,
A few months ago, Kaspar and I were sitting on the couch watching the news together and you asked me whether I thought people are good.
It surprised me to hear you ask this question. You are so young! But it made sense given what has happened the last two years. You have had to deal with things that no kid should – and no one should.
Before Yannik died, you had an older brother to look up to, someone to set an example for you. He was so open, kind, and generous with everyone he met. He always saw the best in people, even when it wasn’t easy. I am so glad that you had the chance to learn from him – your mother and I learned a lot from him as well.
But since he passed away, I have watched as your view of the world has been challenged and your eyes have been opened to new perspectives. So, when you sat with me watching Trump say hateful things about Muslims that night, you asked: “Are people good, or not?”
It is not an easy question to answer, but I want to tell you about a recent experience which reminded me about the lesson that Yannik taught us.
Do you remember what happened to us last November, when we arrived at the Berlin airport for the first Y_Space workshop? Mum’s laptop and external hard drive were stolen from her bag – and all the videos, pictures and visible memories that we had of Yannik were gone too. Do you remember how sad it made her? She felt like she had lost Yannik all over again.
I tried everything to get those memories back: tracking the computer, emailing every contact inside the airport, spending hours on the phone with the police. Eventually, I gave up.
Then, in January, I received a series of calls from an unknown number, which I ignored at first. But the caller kept trying over and over again, and I eventually picked up.
It was a man named Mario who worked at the Berlin Airport. He said he had seen my mobile number on the email I sent to the airport and wanted to meet me. He said he might have found our hard drive.
It took me by surprise. Honestly, I had my doubts – after all, so much time had passed. But I wasn’t going to give up this chance. So I cautiously agreed to meet Mario at the Passenger Bridge on my flight from London to Berlin.
A few days later, I stepped off the plane onto the Passenger Bridge to find Mario waiting for me. I don’t know what I had expected to see, but his appearance was in total contrast to mine. He was tall with bleach blond hair, covered in tattoos and piercings, dressed in yellow and blue overalls. You know that your dad isn’t so fashionable! After a brief conversation, he handed me a hard drive and I gave him an envelope with €150 inside as a thank you. Then we went our separate ways.
As soon as I got into the taxi, I opened my laptop, plugged in the hard drive, and clicked on the folder. As the file loaded, pictures of Yannik and all of you all popped up on my screen, standing next to each other, laughing together, caring for one another. I will never forget that feeling.
Nor will I forget your mum’s reaction when I showed her the photos that evening. Until then, I had kept the whole thing secret from her, as I didn’t want to raise her hopes. It was a wonderful moment for our whole family.
But I really wanted to share this story because of what happened two days later. I checked my emails, and sitting in my inbox was a notification from Y_Space, the organisation we set up to embody your brother’s spirit and spread his values.
The email said that someone called Mario had donated €150 to Y_Space.
So: do I think people are good?
There still isn’t an easy answer to your question. Given what happened on Westminster Bridge two weeks ago, a few miles from our home in London, or what happened just this weekend in Egypt, I can’t sincerely tell you that people are only good.
So perhaps this is the question: what do you do when good isn’t the easy option? Do you turn your back on your beliefs? Do you do nothing? Or do you work even harder to be more kind, more open, and more generous?
That is for you to decide.
All my love,