Jean Vanier created a wildly inefficient model of compassion. We can learn a lot from it.

With the passing of Jean Vanier on May 7, the sum of the world’s welcoming kindness diminished appreciably.

More than 50 years ago, Vanier sparked an unlikely movement of conscience. Shocked by the despair and loneliness he found at a psychiatric hospital outside Paris, Vanier did not merely adopt the cause of the intellectually disabled; he decided to buy a dilapidated house and live with Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two people with severe intellectual disabilities. “Essentially, they wanted a friend,” Vanier said. “They were not very interested in my knowledge or my ability to do things, but rather they needed my heart and my being.”

This highly personalized model of compassion now inspires 10,000 people who live together in more than 150 L’Arche group homes around the world. Those without intellectual disabilities — known as “assistants” — spend a year or more committed to a L’Arche home and its disabled members. And the relationship can be transforming for both.

Washington Post