The Strong Need the Weak

Jean Vanier is Awarded the Templeton Prize

When I get in the car with my twin two-year-old boys, I am never sure if they will allow for NPR. I crave little morsels of adult conversation but they are always quite sure about what kind of noise they want to listen to  - or create themselves. I won the little battle this morning - they were quiet and patient and I was rewarded with Jean Vanier.

It was an honest pleasure to hear that this man has just been awarded The Templeton Prize - though I hadn't heard of this award before. Here's what I found from the website: 

"The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Established in 1972 by the late Sir John Templeton, the Prize aims, in his words, to identify "entrepreneurs of the spirit"—outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality."

Jean Vanier began L'Arche in France in 1964 when he and some friends offered assistance and care to disabled men. He created a little community where people could live together and help one another. His mission is to take those with intellectual disabilities out of the shadows in society and have them live with the value they deserve.

His mission has grown so that today there are 147 different residential communities operating in 35 countries, where those with intellectual disabilities live with those without disabilities. He believes quite passionately that the strong need the weak, more than the weak need the strong.  

I am left in awe….inspired and humbled. His work and vision seem not of this time. I was not even aware of him until some unknown day last year. When I saw that his book was called, Becoming Human, I just had to have it and Amazon Prime obliged. I put it neatly on top of  my "to read" pile in the foyer but never got to it.

Reading the title often though, gave me a peaceful pause - with a sense of hope for this senseless world with all it's ills. What did this man have for us? 

I am grateful that in this chaotic world full of stories of hate, there are men like Jean Vanier who have given us a different type of story altogether. He paved his days with utter love and acceptance. He made peace. 

The book is now off the table and will be read: 

"So human beings are in continual evolution. Every generation wants to achieve more than the proceeding one. We are in a culture of competition. The strong, the beautiful, the intelligent, and the capable are magnified and extolled. The weak and the vulnerable are often put aside. Our world is characterized by the huge gap between the rich and the poor, the oppressors and the oppressed, and by continual horrible conflict between national, ethnic, and religious groups. This struggle, which has existed in various forms throughout history, is in me and in each one of us. But history has also seen women and men rise up, seeing new ways of creating peace an unity amongst people and helping the oppressed to find new life through wisdom and love and a consciousness of their value."  (Vanier, Jean. Becoming Human)