I first met Jean in August of 1971 when I was in the process of leaving the business community and searching for a new direction in my life. His words and the life of L'Arche had and continue to have a profound influence upon my life. Jean is authentic, compassionate and a person with a vision for humankind that is uparalled in the world today.
What most struck me about Jean Vanier when I met him in 1973 was his simplicity, his transparency; when he spoke about Jesus he actually radiated Jesus. I am moved by his capacity to walk compassionately with others, to carry the sufferings of so many in his heart, with love and hope and trust. And always there is his wonderful smile and joy!
I am especially touched by Jean's gift for connecting with young people and struck by the energy that flows between him and the youth. They sense the authentcity of his love and concern for them and they are attracted by the hope-filled but realistic vision he offers them. I saw this when we did some videotaping of Jean with high school students. He and the students were completely engaged with one another, and his responses to their questions seemed to call forth deeper questioning and reflection on their part. I saw his gift also when, in 2008, he spoke to a youth forum of nearly 2000 Toronto students. He met the young people just where they were at. He spoke to their pain and difficulties and encouraged their hopes and dreams The silence in the large conference room was profound Some students wept.
I first met Jean in August 1971 and what struck me was that here is a man of great integrity. He lives what he believes and that was the deepest desire in my heart. Over the years one of the greatest gifts I have received from Jean is his trust. He trusted me even when I didn't trust myself.
I first met Jean around 1972 I think, and found him to be such a compelling man. For me his gift of making Jesus a real, vital person by bringing the Gospel stories alive was wonderful. Listening to him during the retreats of those early 70's years began a huge transformation in my life for which I am so very grateful. Over the years his call to l'Arche led me to some of the most precious friendships of my life ,most especially in the community of l'Arche Greater Vancouver. I see Jean's work as one of breaking down barriers between people who may be frightened of one another and thus of making peace in our world 'one heart at a time'.
For me, Jean Vanier embodies the very best of Canada. His courage, his compassion, his vulnerability are truly the qualities humankind needs. We are blessed to have him among us.