A letter to my grandchildren

How the world has changed, for better and for worse, over five generations.

Dear grandchildren,

You all are successful, with healthy lives, good jobs, happy families and beautiful children; you are loving parents; in a word, you have made it. So why a letter from me, your 93-year-old grandfather?

I have fond memories of mine! As a kid, ages four to 12, I often stayed with my mother’s parents on their 30-acre farm powered by one horse in the Netherlands. No electricity. A pig, a flock of chickens, a dozen milk cows and some young cattle. My paternal grandparents had a grocery store and, in horse-drawn wagon, called on my mother’s parents periodically, bartering eggs for coffee, tea and soap. Both my grandfathers were elders in the same large village church.
When my mother married in 1923, her father gave her in today’s currency the equivalent of $200,000 – enough to equip a complete household and for my father to buy a car and the machinery to start his business.

I remember one particular grade school lesson in 1939; it was the 100th anniversary of the first steam-powered train from Amsterdam to Haarlem. The teacher told us that some people in 1839 called this new-fangled transportation a “devil’s device.” We all laughed: how could that be true!?

The unraveling process

When your Oma and I moved to Tweed, Ontario in 1975 from the city, the bullfrogs and birds woke us up. These sounds are gone. In the city you don’t notice these changes: here in Tweed, I do. Things have changed: the economy has priority. We now live in a world where a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive. We live in a world where an elephant is worth more dead than alive, where a whale . . . .

My grandparents, born 150 years ago – 1870 – in rural Groningen, knew how to live: in community. True, they did not have penicillin and people died younger, but there was genuine fellowship – music, choir, theatre groups, church. With the frogs and birds, that is largely gone.

James Lovelock, an atheist scientist, now 101 years old, says in The Revenge of Gaia that our planet is fighting back with climate change and melting poles. The economy will keep destroying trees, mining the earth and pulling oil out of the ground, even though we know we leave a worse world for you, my dear grandchildren.

My generation started this unraveling process. That is my legacy, and I beg you for forgiveness. The short-term thinking of my generation based on the religion of profit at all cost is at the root of it all: now I see that I am the severed tree; I am the dead whale. My generation is the culprit.

Yet I believe that some of this “living close to nature” is still in you; after all, we are products of our forebears, still partners with the air, soil and water around us. Embrace the natural world around you and in every action work for her welfare. Love the earth; love her unconditionally. Question every one of your actions for its consequences, every step for its ultimate result.

You are smart young people. When you closely examine what goes on out there, you will re-discover the unity and order, evident everywhere, because everything on earth is somehow harmoniously connected to everything else.

The law of serving

When you look around with open eyes and minds, you’ll see that life is all about serving. The law of serving is at the heart of every creature. That law makes it possible for the entire world to exist. Every creature, in final analysis, is nothing else but a servant for others. And that happens automatically, as if a mighty hand brings all this in motion. Each being operates according to its nature, but everything together is so oriented that the existence of the one supports the other and maintains it.

With us humans, service is different – infinitely richer but also more difficult. Humans know exactly what they do and why they do it. As a consequence, humans have much greater opportunity to serve. Every category in society serves the other; a world can’t do without medical helpers, but it also needs arborists and food inspectors, and even video-makers and other “new-fangled” inventions.

The trouble with us humans is that the inclination to only serving our needs is both stronger and more dangerous, promoting our welfare at the expense of our fellow citizens and other species. Even though we are more conscious of what we do, more able to gauge the needs of others, we also can easily ignore the plight of our neighbors and the care for creation.

In short: serving is for most of us something we are reluctant to do. That “me first” inclination often overwhelms all other feelings. Given this weakness, we humans have been given a command by God: serve one another, serve creation! This serving, so “naturally” accomplished by all other segments of the world, we have to implement with full awareness. We all are connected from bottom to top to each other and all living matter.

My wish for you, my dear grandchildren, is that this multi-level serving will be an integral part of your daily life.

Yours, with all my love,



  1. Dear Opa Hielema,

    There is no need for you to apologize for anything. Your Parents and Grandparents fought in The Great War World War One, and your Parents and your generation saw World War Two. You are part of the greatest generation. Or maybe your parents are formerly considered the “Greatest Generation.” But no matter, You and your parents helped keep evil people like Hitler and Mussolini at bay. You are the people that truly made the world a happier place.
    Sadly as a 61-year old, I fear that my generation and the next generation will see the evil of Marxists Globalists take over our world. I don’t mean to turn too dire here, or necessarily political, but I think it is clear that there is no such thing anymore as the Tories and the Liberals, no such thing as Conservatives and Progressives. There is only Right and Left, Right and Wrong, and it is clear that the Left has been completely taken over by evil Marxists Globalists. “Never let a crisis go to waste” is a quote from an evil Leftist Democrat, Rham Emanuel. Or how about this one, “Covid is God’s gift to the Left,” a quote from another prominent Leftist Jane Fonda, Hanoi Jane herself. Remember, that famous actress that sided with the enemy in the Viet Nam War.
    Today, no matter the crisis, pick your favorite Covid, Racism, Global Cooling, Global Warming, Climate Change, Climate Emergency the sad truth is that it is all meaningless BS. The underlying fact is that whether there is any truth to these crises, the Left loves to embolden any crisis they can find and create narratives that result in only one solution. And that solution is more government, more God-less Marxist Global Government, and less individuality. Or simply the globalists elites the George Soros and Bill Gates types, want everyone to feel chaos, despair, and sadness. I just watched a video where I heard Cuban-American Congressional Candidate Robert Starbuck say, “The truth is Marxism has never come to fruition in a happy country. It comes through chaos, and so they [the Leftists] know they have to build up chaos, they have to build unrest, and they have to divide us as much as they possibly can if they want Marxism to have a way to rise to the top here in America…it is obviously working at this point.”

  2. Dear Bert,
    I wish to tell you of my appreciation for your principled stand and your writing over the years. You have my respect and, mostly, my agreement.
    Shalom. Curt Gesch

    1. Hi Curt,

      I may be mistaken but did we meet decades ago in Smithers where you were a principal?

      Thanks for the comment on my article.

      God bless,


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