Soul Shine
Esther (founder and director Together for Eindhoven) with sister Judith

A personal story by Esther Hofstede

Shine your light. On yourself and others.

That you can still learn new things after a lifetime of experience is wonderful. For example, not long ago during a good conversation I came to an insight I had not had before. I thought I knew why I am so passionately committed to Samen voor Eindhoven: I had been on sabbatical in Guatemala and after working in the corporate world for ten years, I wanted to bridge the gap between business and society, right? But after a few conversations with Prof. Dr. Bas Kodden, professor at Nijenrode Business University, we came to talk about 'purpose': the goal. Why do we do what we do? Everyone's enthusiasm and drive comes from somewhere. It comes from deeper than just a reason why you do something. Often it has to do with how you grew up. Why do I actually want to change the world and make it better?

My mother and younger sister played a big role in that. My mother, a caring woman. My sister, the rebel, great and compelling, who made it very hard on herself with a drug addiction for more than a decade. And me, who had a hard time accepting that at first, yet always kept helping.

What I did not see at the time, perhaps because I was young or it was too close, is how important it is to accept the other as they are. With an open mind and heart. So I know what it is like to live side by side, yet be in two worlds. That's why I like to build bridges, make connections, be meaningful to other people who are struggling. I grant everyone a peek into someone else's world. That is my purpose; that is why I bring companies and social organizations together, so that all these worlds with their differences and also similarities come together.

As many as 82% of the 13,000 employees who volunteered through Samen voor Eindhoven experienced more understanding and respect for the people they volunteered for. I like to think big: when so many people change, the whole system changes. A world with more mutual understanding and respect, an eye for the other and less judgment. I like to commit myself endlessly to that, also for the next ten years.

My sister Judith now works as an experiencer at a large organization in addiction treatment. I admire her and see her talents and different view of the world. And she mine. Soul Shine she has tattooed on her forearm in large ornate letters. Shine your light. On yourself and others.

Photos: Esther Hofstede, founder and director of Together for Eindhoven. Text Esther Hofstede in collaboration with Annemieke Dubbeldeman

Esther's sister Judith close up tattoos