Daily Thoughts from Jean Vanier - 6/27/09

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It is Nicolas’ birthday and everyone at La Forestiere, his L’Arche home in Trosly, France, seems excited for him. I am there as a guest, on only my second visit to the foyer. Nicolas comes to dinner wearing a sharp looking polo shirt and reclining in a well-constructed wheelchair that allows him to survey the table. He has severe cerebral palsy and has very little control over his body. He looks younger than his 31 years, his face fresh and his brown hair neatly parted and combed. Next to Nicolas sits Peter, a Canadian assistant who is helping him eat this evening.

Though he doesn’t speak, Nicolas conveys clearly his happiness that his birthday has arrived, and his already broad smile seems to double when told that the house leader has prepared his favourite dessert, tiramisu—a perfect choice since he eats only pureed food. After the main meal, the large bowl of dessert is carried in with fanfare and shown to Nicolas with the singing of “Happy Birthday,” and he is presented with a gift from his house -mates which Peter helps him open. The gift, a new lunch pail and water bottle, draws exclamations of approval. Then it is time for everyone to tuck eagerly into the tiramisu, with not a few extra serviettes being put to use in the process.

I am touched by Nicolas, by his so genuine happiness. He is not someone who spends his time thinking about what he can’t do or how hard life is. I am touched by the way the others in his house, some of whom have almost as many limitations, celebrate him so happily. And I am touched by the assistants who so obviously love Nicolas.

Beth Porter, L’Arche Canada



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