Meeting with Jean Vanier - 2

By Matthieu Ricard on October 21, 2011

Matthieu: Some people speak of ‟compassion fatigue”, or ‟burn-out”. But do you think that love, kindheartedness, compassion can really become strained?

Jean Vanier: When I meet someone with a heavy disability, who looks at me with such tenderness, this shakes things up. A ‟burn-out” comes when we are too busy and do not spend enough time with these persons. It is also important to train well those people who work in our communities. The human being has a tendency to want ‟to do things” and does not take enough time. There is always a danger of becoming too active instead of finding the deep nourishment of the heart. We need to take the time to cultivate inwardness. We must listen to our inner voice. We must learn to love with wisdom, to be intelligent with our heart. Contradiction comes only when we do not realize that there is a unity between the heart and intelligence. People are happy if you take the time to listen to them. We must create an atmosphere of trust. The creation of deeds deemed human requires a good head, but this head must not be separated from the heart.

‟France is but a small part in this vast world that threatens to explode due to the disparity between the rich and the poor. Each of us must learn to grow, to do our best. We must put our heads and our hearts together.

‟My last words are, ‟Do not be afraid, you are more beautiful than you would dare to believe.”

During the same meeting, Sophie Cluzel (who founded an association that takes care of integrating disabled people in schools and businesses) told the story of a business that had hired a Down's syndrome person for their office building's main reception. The presence of this disabled person had, in a very positive way, transformed profoundly the interpersonal relationships that existed for the people there, both in their workplace and in their lives.