In just a little bit I will be meeting up with members of L’Arche as my sweet friend Laurie, a core member, is celebrating her 5th year anniversary of joining the community. We are celebrating appropriately, with beers served at an Irish pub and enjoyed in the late summer sun, followed by dinner at her house. I have a small card for her and will probably bring some prosecco. I am also pleased to be wearing tie-dye and a long hippie skirt, and know none of these things actually matter in the grand scheme, because at L’Arche it seems possible to recognize the beauty of people for who they are, not for what they do or bring.
I have been transformed by this community and movement, you know. I am struck again and again at its universality, the true family feel of the movement, even when I am encountering it in other parts of the country (or world). When L’Arche’s founder, Jean Vanier, passed earlier this year, it gave me much to think about: about his witness, like John the Baptist, pointing toward what is true and good (Jesus). His humility (“I am not so much the founder, as simply the first to arrive”); the way he exemplified the Beatitudes and lived the Gospel. He was the rich young man, except he answered the call and gave up everything. And he devoted his life to helping others see and understand their own identity as loved by Christ.
I recently came across something that was published last fall after he turned 90. Vanier made a YouTube video called “10 Rules for Life to Become More Human.” “Becoming Human” is the name of one of his books, as well as his general message of the human condition: broken, but loved. Below are the ten rules:
Accept the reality of your body.
Talk about your emotions and difficulties.
Don’t be afraid of not being successful.
In a relationships, take the time to ask, “How are you?”
Stop looking at your phone - be present!
Ask people, “What is your story?”
Be aware of your own story.
Stop prejudice: meet people.
Listen to your deepest desire.
Remember that you’ll die one day.
I believe I could look back over this list at various times in life and be struck in different ways by each. Some may call out to you particularly today, but not at all next year, because something else will be in your heart that challenges. Today, for me, it is #7 - be aware of your own story. I read it and think, “Do I have a story? What right do I to have a story? Who would benefit from it, and why would anyone want to listen?” Well, refer to #6: perhaps someone wants to ask you, what is your story? What is your name, who is your mother, what is your favorite time of day, which side of the bed do you sleep on, waffle or cake cone, coffee or tea, summer or winter, left hand or right, how did you get here and who or what do you love more than anyone in the world?
Jean Vanier, pray for us.