This is what real kindness looks like
Happy 90th Birthday Jean Vanier!
I first heard you speak on television when you visited Vancouver. I was young and your words left an impact on me. I thought to myself… this is what real kindness looks like.
Later on, in 2007, you came to Toronto to speak at an event and I was a dancer with the Spirit Movers dance troupe from L’Arche Daybreak. I remember you, so tall, bent down and lifted Tracy’s head with your hands lovingly. Tracy was a dancer in wheelchair, who could not communicate verbally and could not lift her head. You gazed at Tracy with so much love and gentleness. When Tracy’s eyes met yours, she broke into a huge smile. I thought to myself… this is the divine in you meeting the divine in Tracy.
In June 2014, I was one of 38 Faith and Light leaders from North America who were invited to join you for a retreat at La Ferme in Trosly. I gave you a photo book of our Toronto Faith and Light group ‘Grace’. You kindly invited me to your study at your home. I loved that you took time to look at each photo and asked about each person in our group. You also asked about Mary Bastedo, Sue Mosteller, L’Arche Daybreak and Toronto. We ended our visit with a selfie suggested by you! I thought to myself then… this was the greatest gift, I must follow your example of generosity and give the gift of presence to all those I meet.
In December 2017, I was again at a retreat at La Ferme, organized by Greg Rogers. Even though you were recovering from your heart attack, you attended mass with us. You even gave a special blessing and laid hands on me and Eileen Rogers. We felt so touched and immensely blessed.
Thank you for your inspiration, your influence and your guidance. From you, I learned about the gift of presence, kindness, community and a God who chose vulnerability and powerlessness.
May God bless you in ways more than you can imagine on your 90th Birthday and many more years to come!
(Joy Sumyi Lee)