Daily Thoughts from Jean Vanier - 5/7/09

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A Family’s Story

I’ve been involved with L’Arche for just over 20 years. With certainty, I can say that it is the relationships that I have had within community that have made the biggest impact on my life. One of the privileges of my role here in L’Arche Toronto, has been the opportunity to connect with the families of core members. Tim, who has been a L’Arche Toronto member for just over ten years, comes from a large family with three brothers and two sisters. His mother and one other sibling had passed away many years ago, and when Tim was settling in at L’Arche his father’s health was not good. The first year that Tim was with us, I took him to a family gathering on Boxing Day, shortly before his father died. I asked his sister when the last time they had all spent a Christmas together had been, and after thinking for a moment she said, "Never."

Tim was born in a time when it was strongly advised that infants and young children with disabilities be taken from their families and placed into care facilities. Young brothers and sisters often never knew where, or what exactly happened, and did not have a lot of opportunity to visit the institutions. This meant no chance to get to know each other and see each other grow up. The first few times that Tim did see his siblings after leaving the institution were a little bit awkward as they weren’t sure how to relate to him or how much he understood.

Ironically, in the last few years it has been through Tim that his adult brothers and sisters have been in more contact with each other and opportunities of celebration or care needs in Tim’s life have actually brought them together more often. It has been a privilege to see the relationship between Tim and his family members grow stronger in spite of circumstances and social stigmas of the past that prevented them from experiencing and being a part of each other’s lives.

Michael MacKenzie, L’Arche Toronto



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