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Jean Vanier quotes to remember

Bill Fox

Bill Fox

By Bill Fox/Columnist

As mentioned last column, one of my heroes was Jean Vanier who recently passed away.

Over the years Vanier wrote over 30 books on religion, disability, success, and tolerance. What follows are some of his quotes with my reflection on them:

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy – in fact, the opposite.”

Our family’s favourite and happiest place is where we live the most simply. I’m talking about a cottage.

It is a very rustic cottage built by my father-in-law and his brother over 60 years ago, and is less than 800 sq. ft. in total.

Luckily we do have a toilet and a shower, but the bedrooms are small and the walls are thin.

However, this has been the gathering place for our family for decades. It is very simple with no air conditioning, cable TV or Internet. When we are all together, the bedrooms are filled and people sleep on the couch or on air mattresses on the floor.

It is hard to imagine that in many countries we would be considered living in luxury.

My wife and some of my sons have spent some time living in the poorer areas of the Dominican Republic. They came back with stories about how happy the people seemed, gathering together many evenings for music and singing. I presume if they had TVs they might compare themselves to what we enjoy, but though they struggle they still are happy.

“Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness…we are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love…”

I think of the nurses and personal support workers who looked after my dad and earlier my mother-in-law in their last months at our local nursing home. To most, if not all, this was more than a job.

Our elderly parents were shown great compassion and tenderness their last few months on Earth.

Similarly for many teachers theirs was more than a job. I think of many primary school teachers who would hug their students when they entered class or when they left for the evening or the weekend. When I was a student there were teachers I loved for their concern and dedication.

“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.”

I should preface my remarks by saying that voting in the provincial or federal elections for over 50 years, I only recall twice ever voting for a party. Most of my voting was against a sitting party.

It is like we have to vote for the least evil choice. I believe that was the situation for many this past provincial election when we heard Ford talking about being “For the people.”

That being said, I watched some of Premier Ford’s recent speech in Ajax. Why is it when things are going well, politicians take all the credit?

Ford started his remarks with commenting about how many great members of the legislature were in attendance. He then went on a litany of all the wonderful things he and his party have already done, in such a short time.

Opposite of this bravado are the wonderful volunteers in our community. I think of those who volunteer at our hospital or at St. Vincent’s Kitchen. I have never, ever heard any brag about their volunteering, and in the majority of cases, never even mention that they volunteer.

Despite having a doctorate degree in Philosophy, Vanier lived a very simple and unassuming life. We have much to learn from his experiences and writings.

I’m at, welcoming comments.