Jean Vanier’s Tears of Silence (DLT, 1973) is the earliest book about L’Arche that I know, As an appendix he has a speech given at Church House in 1972, from which this is an extract.
This is the problem. We have created a society that rejects the weak. This is a terrible indictment of any society. It is a wonderful thing when you put your arms out in a welcoming attitude to a handicapped person; then something happens: his eyes begin to believe and his heart begins to dance and he begins in some way to become our teacher. . .
I begin to discover something: that this wounded person, a distorted face, a crippled hand, that the way the handicapped person looks at me, approaches me – all this does something to me, the wounded person calls me forth. And being called forth, I discover that I can bring him up some tiny little way.
The vocabulary has changed over forty years, but the message is clear. And although big subnormality hospitals are largely consigned to history, our society still rejects the weak, to the extent that parents will be put under tremendous pressure to abort a baby known to have Down’s syndrome.
We need to return, not so much to the 2oth century roots of L’Arche, but to the 1st Century roots of L’Arche, the Joyful Good News we are sent to proclaim to all nations.
(Tears of Silence is on sale in French and English through Abe Books.)
James Cuming leads the Canterbury-based L’Arche Kent Community. Today and tomorrow we have his thoughts on ‘Care’ as it is lived out in L’Arche.
“Care”. The word promises so much yet its outworking can be so clinical.
L’Arche is an intentional faith community of mutually concerned, crazily diverse human beings. But we’re also an accredited, approved, qualified, rigorously inspected agency of health and social care. We’re a service provider and we deliver our service to service users. We practise care on clients. We’re a delivery agency, a utility company. Customer satisfaction is important to us. Why? Because we’re G-R-R-R-EAT! Because you’re worth it. Because I’m lovin’ it.
When did care move from being a verb to become a noun? When did care stop being something you felt and became something you delivered – a commodity – something to be traded, quality assured, ‘rigorously tested’, measured, accredited. When did society first start ‘doing’ care to people?
I’m being facetious. Care as a noun of course has a valid and entirely different definition to that of the verb. Providing ‘care’ to someone with particular needs enables the individual to live life with more freedom and independence which in turn offers more opportunity for them to care about—and be cared—for by another human being.
The great observation by Jean Vanier 50 years ago which led to the founding of the first L’Arche community was something so simple and obvious that it almost makes you wonder what all the fuss is about: when two people are genuinely and mutually concerned for one another, involved with one another, care for one another, both will change, both will grow.