You have changed my life in many ways
Dear Jean Vanier,
Happy Birthday! You have changed my life in many ways. But I would like to tell you the story of the first time I realized why you are so beloved.
I was a brand new assistant at L’Arche Ottawa in 2002 when you came to town. One evening you gave a talk at the cathedral. The crowd was at overflow capacity and our L’Arche home was, of course, running late. We were directed down to the cathedral basement where screens had been set up to broadcast your talk. We were trying to find seats in the crowded basement when I looked up and saw you being ushered along in an attempt to get you upstairs where everyone important was waiting for you. I was standing with Claire Lavoie, a Core Member from my home. Claire never moved quickly, but that evening she ran over to you. “Jean Vanier,” Claire said, “I’m Claire! You knew my mom!”
You stopped, turned to Claire with your full attention, took her hands and said, “Yes, Claire, I knew your mom.”
There was no one else in that moment; certainly not the cathedral full of people waiting on you. All of your care and attention was upon Claire, and I saw for the first time in my life a different way of entering into relationship with somebody. Of being entirely present to somebody even in the midst of chaos. I have tried since that moment to be present to people in the way that you were to Claire.
Thank you for teaching me and countless others about a different way to be in the world.