Today is 'Koninginnedag' (Queen's Day) here in The Netherlands, and as a part of these nation-wide celebrations people that have contributed, with voluntary work, to our society, are decorated.
This year, my mother was one of the people to receive a royal decoration for her work as a volunteer. Maaike de Vries-Schouten (yes, that's the name of my mother) has been very active all her life, never content to settle into 'just' a role as mother and housewife (please note that I most certainly don't mean to demean the role of mother or housewife: every weekend when I see my nephews: two very intelligent and highly active children I realise how much time and energy goes into raising children, and how hard it is to do that well), while my father -- there will be a post about him tomorrow -- was travelling the world for his day job.
While raising my brother, my sister, and me, she also returned back to evening school in order to finish her 'MAVO' education (this was called 'moeder MAVO' at the time), and when we were getting old enough to take care of ourselves -- which we learned fast -- she returned to her old profession and became the evening head nurse of the hospital of Gorinchem for which she used to work.
When the kids began leaving the house, and even more when she had to retire as an evening head nurse (she didn't really want to, but had to), she began doing volunteer work, such as assisting handicapped people on the 'Zonnebloem' boat (this is a vessel that goes on weekly holiday trips with physically and metally handicapped people. The vessel is manned mostly by volunteers like my mother), helping run a 'wereld winkel' -- the Dutch equivalent of an Oxfam shop -- or organising EHBO (a bit like the Dutch version of the Red Cross) events, and more.
Actually, just yesterday she ran an EHBO stand while there was a bicycle race in the village -- Wijk en Aalburg -- where she lives. She's seventy years old now, and still very, very active. I sure hope I still have so much energy when (and if) I reach that age.
So, while I'm obviously very biased, I do think she really, really deserves it.
Keep it going, mum!