Last week my husband and I had the privilege of visiting Denmark. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit the country that protected her Jews during WWII. Out of 8000 Jews who lived in Denmark at the time, fewer than 100 perished. The story is told of King Christian X who rode his horse (without guards to protect him) wearing the yellow star of David on his clothing. Legend records the King saying, “If anyone has to wear the Star of David, we will all wear the star.”
In Denmark today, we witnessed the same trust and sense of mutual responsibility. In Copenhagen, we learned that King Christian X’s great-grandson, the Crown Prince of Denmark, ferries his children to and from school on a bike with a cart (unguarded, just like his great grandfather). But even more astounding was something else we witnessed. Residents of Copenhagen not only leave their bikes unlocked, they actually leave their babies in strollers, unattended, when they step into shops for a quick errand! Where else might you find this level of mutual trust and responsibility for each other?
Warren Christopher, our former Secretary of State, tells the following story: “I was driving down a two lane highway at about 60 miles an hour. A car approached from the opposite direction, at about the same speed. As we passed each other, I caught the other driver’s eye for only a second. I wondered if he might be thinking, as I was, how dependent we were on each other. I was relying on him not to fall asleep, not to be distracted by a cell phone conversation, not to cross over into my lane and bring my life suddenly to an end. And though we had never spoken a word to one another, he relied on me in just the same way [This I Believe].”
The truth is, all of us must operate with a basic level of trust and mutual responsibility or we would be unable to survive. I trust my mail carrier to not read my mail (thank you, Wade!), my dog sitter to treat Scout with kindness (thank you, Gina!) my kids’ teachers to stimulate my children’s minds (thank you, teachers!) and the list goes on and on. Not a day goes by that I don’t rely on literally hundreds and hundreds of people to honor their responsibilities. That’s what it means to be part of a community.
Visiting Denmark was inspiring. But coming home, I realize that no matter where you park your bike, you are counting on others to take care of you. It is awesome to realize how many people are in our web of responsibility.