“The gem of inspiration at the heart of L’Arche [a model community for people with developmental disabilities] is that mutual relationships with those who are vulnerable open us up to the discovery of our common humanity. In this way, [Jean Vanier] names human imperfection as a gift, and an opportunity. Imperfection and weakness can draw people closer together, for instance in solidarity around someone who has been hurt and needs help.
Vulnerability can move others to give more of themselves, or to open up and reveal their own shortcomings. Strength and mastery can be impressive, yet they tend to divide people in competition and the regular disappointment of not measuring up. “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes. …The weak teach the strong to accept and integrate the weakness and brokenness of their own lives.” Pamela Cushing quoting Jean Vanier
“Sharing life with marginalized people galvanized Vanier’s understanding that to serve others well requires us to move beyond charity and tolerance. He recognized the hubris that grows when a helper imagines himself as somehow superior or separate from those he serves. He learned how much better help feels to the person in need when animated by a sense of solidarity and common humanity than help driven merely by a sense of duty.” Cushing
“In everything I did, I showed you
that by this kind of hard work
we must help the weak,
remembering the words
the Lord Jesus himself said:
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:35
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Imagine, “human weakness and imperfection” as a gift – an opportunity. Can you welcome your own weaknesses and imperfections as gifts or opportunities?
- Can you see how loving solidarity with, and care for, the poor can help you avoid the pitfall of hubris? to remind you that you are just a “homo sapien, standard vintage?” (Ernest Becker)
- Out of your shared weakness, you can “nourish” others. Will you do that?
Abba, help me move beyond charity and tolerance in my love for Others who seem more needy than me.
For More: Community and Growth by Jean Vanier
In “Daily Riches” my goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)