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About four years ago, I met a man. He wore a boyish smile, cheeky look in his eyes, quite outspoken. An attentive listener. We had a cup of coffee in some Paris café. Some weeks later, not far from the same café, I met a woman. She was considerate with me, and yet open at the same time. She was clear and concise, intuitive, and one of those people who see right into your heart.
Some months later, I wrote my first editorial for this magazine. Soon, the man and the woman would begin their second term of a job that seemed, then, to be quite a load - a workload, a personal load, a challenge. About six weeks ago, the two of them entered the last phase of what will eventually add up to twelve years of responsibility in the Federation. More determined than nervous this time, looking forward to the upcoming end and yet full of projects and visions, and, more than anything, still committed, very committed to L’Arche, ‘their soil’ – to use Jean-Christophe’s word.
One should not write an editorial for personal reasons, but as this is my last editorial, as this is a special Kolkata ’08 edition, as the Federation has lived through some special moments in preparation for Kolkata ’08, and as it is entering a stage of growth and change, well, I must use this space to thank Jean-Christophe and Christine.
It’d be the only thing I’d want to add to the different articles, speeches, testimonies and comments of this issue. The words and photos beautifully capture the essence of what some of us have lived in Kolkata, what some have followed from afar, what has resulted from the hard work and preparation of many others. But the speakers and authors of this issue might not highlight enough the extent to which Jean-Christophe and Christine have driven this Federation, steadily and carefully, into new, sometimes shaky, yet ever so exciting waters - pushing it yet holding it together; questioning and trusting - not only in Kolkata, but for the past nine and a half years.
Coming from “the outside”, a non-member called to be professional, innocent and unbiased in terms of L’Arche’s do’s and don’ts, I have learned that the exercise of leadership and authority is certainly not a favourite of yours – you L’Arche folk from “the inside”, communitarians who carry the history and the founding story. I have learned that Jean-Christophe and Christine have a leadership style that relies on learning by doing, subtle pressure, and the “listening to and walking with …” more than on outlines, strategy, and planning. I learned a lot with the two of them and I learned a lot from them and - although my experience is rather limited and short-lived compared to some of L’Arche’s coryphaeuses - I sense that the Federation, too, has learned a lot with the two of them and has learned a lot from them. And as I am speaking of a coryphaeus, let me rely one more time on Jean’s words: “What gives me a lot of peace and joy, an inner harmony, is that, Jean-Christophe, you are here. And you, Christine, you are here, too. And when I say Jean-Christophe and Christine, I mean, of course, all of you.”
Thank you Jean-Christophe and Christine.