Peace as Taught By the Needy

In his book Seeds of Hope (edited by Robert Durback) Henri Nouwen describes conditions of his residency at "Daybreak" care facility near Toronto (@1987). There his primary focus of attention was "Adam" a seriously handicapped resident, and a thoroughly needy man who brought intense meaning to such concepts as humility, patience and thankfulness:

Adam is the most broken of us all, but without any doubt the strongest bond among us all. Because of Adam there is always someone home, because of Adam there is a quiet rhythm in the house, because of Adam there are moments of silence and quiet, because of Adam there are always words of affection, gentleness, and tenderness, because of Adam there is patience and endurance, because of Adam there are smiles and tears visible to all, because of Adam there is always space for mutual forgiving and healing...yes, because of Adam there is peace among us. How otherwise could people from such different nationalities and cultures, people with such different characters and with such a variety of handicaps, whether mental or not, live together in peace? Adam truly calls us together around him and molds this motley group of strangers into a family. Adam, the weakest among us, is our true peacemaker. How mysterious are God's ways: "God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong, those who by human standards are common and contemptible-indeed who count for nothing-to reduce to nothing all those who do count for something, so that no human being might feel boastful before God" (1 Cor. 1:27-30 author paraphrase). Adam gives flesh to those words of Paul. He teaches me the true mystery of community.

...Thus as you see, Adam is gradually teaching me something about peace that is not of this world. It is a peace not constructed by tough competition, hard thinking, and individual stardom, but rooted in simply being present to each other, a peace that speaks about the first love of God by which we are all held and a peace that keeps calling us to community, a fellowship of the weak. Adam has never said a word to me. He will never do so. But every night as I put him to bed I say thank you to him. How much closer can one come to the Word that became flesh and dwells among us?


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