August 28, 2009

Our Life Together - Jean Vanier

OK - now I've settled back in at home, it's time for me to start catching up this blog with all of the books I've read this summer. Well, maybe not all - I'll skip the re-reads I think.

I've known about Jean Vanier and L'Arche for about 8 or 9 years now. I first remember hearing about L'Arche on a CBC radio holiday special - it was Good Friday, either 2000 or 2001 - and I remember thinking what an amazing concept it sounds like. People with disabilities and their helpers, living together in community.

My next encounter with Jean Vanier came a few years later when I was living in Tanzania, and a friend sent me the cassettes of Becoming Human, the Massey Lecture series that he had given. 5 hours of bliss, listening to him explain his theology, and the importance of community, relationships, and "the least of these".

So I was excited to hear him interviewed on the CBC by Shelagh Rogers, oh, it must have been almost 2 years ago, and to hear that his letters were going to be published in a volume entitled Our Life Together.

These are the letters that he wrote to the supporters of L'Arche, the network of communities around the world of people with and without disabilities living together in community. L'Arche started in the 1960s with a single home in France and since that time has spread around the world. Well into his 70s now, Jean Vanier still travels the world but considers L'Arche to be his home.

I did enjoy reading them, and his faith and dedication are inspiring, but unfortunately I found them a bit tedious at times. I don't think that all of the letters were included in this volume, but they probably could have stood a bit more editing. As the book went on, I found myself skimming more and more. A bit of a "been there, read that" attitude. Which is unfortunate, because some of the best insights came towards the end of the book, and I'm a bit afraid that I may have missed something.

But the book has found a good home - I took it with me when I travelled back to Tanzania this summer, and left it with my friend Bridget who works in a Community Based Rehab program, and is also a fan of Jean Vanier. She was also the recipient of Becoming Human after I had listened to all of the tapes!

This book was read as part of The Canadian Book Challenge at The Book Mine Set.

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