I have spent the last 9 years of my life wanting to be like Jean Vanier. Through his writings and listening to him speak, I saw a man who was gentle, patient, kind, compassionate, and uncomplicated. He came across as authentic. Who he was when he was with his community mates with disabilities was the same as who he was when he was with dignitaries and academics. Always wearing that blue jacket. Always slightly disheveled. Always with that gleam in his eye and a kind smile on his lips.
And he chose downward mobility. He could have gone many other routes. He could have been an important professor or risen the ranks of the military. But he chose to live in that small house, that didn't even have indoor plumbing at the beginning, with people who were marginalized. He saw beauty and worth in them and wanted to help them see it in themselves.
I thought that if a life lived in community with my friends in L'Arche would fashion me into that kind of person, then it would be a life beautifully lived.
But now, we see a different side of this man. A side lived in shadow and in secret. A gross misuse of power and an abuse of trust and relationship. It makes you question everything else about him. How much was true? How much was authentic?
And if this man isn't the person I thought he was, then what does that mean about the story of how L'Arche was founded? What does that mean about the person I was trying to become? If we can't share the story of Jean, then how can we share the story of L'Arche?
And that is when I think about all of the people that L'Arche has brought into my life. All the beautiful stories of so many people who have been transformed through relationships they have made in L'Arche. I think of all the people who live their lives in ways that call me to be a better person, to grow in wisdom and patience and kindness and love. I think of Pat and Katharine and Alex and Billie Lu and Justin and Matt and Thomas and Nicole and Sharon and John and Mallory and Sam and Vanessa and James and Halston and Bridget and Amy and Kathy and Ray and George and Andrew and Mike and Joan and JoAnne and Megan and so many others who have allowed me to call them friend and have helped me to be a better person. These are the important people, these are the stories we need to focus on and share. The stories of so many people, with and without disabilities, living in mutual trusting relationships and sharing life together. In the midst of this darkness and sadness, these are sources of life and light and joy.
So we need to let this be the story of L'Arche. It is not the story of one man and how he chose to wield his power. It is the story of so many beautiful people who continually choose the hard path of love. And just maybe, by being in community with them and sharing in their stories, I will still have a life that is beautifully lived.