The problem with charity!

The problem with charity!

Charity is fine—but no way nearly enough! That is the message of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, as well as Faith and Light, who celebrates his 90th birthday on September 10th, 2018. September 5th is International Day of Charity. Given that L’Arche is an international charity, depending hugely on the generosity of the public for its work across 38 countries, you might think that Vanier would be content with charity. But you would be wrong! 



“Well, with generosity you always have power. You have money and opportunity.” claims Vanier. “Sometimes those of us who have more power, more money, more time, or more knowledge bend down to those have less power, less knowledge, or less wealth; there is a movement from the ‘superior’ to the ‘inferior.’ When people are generous, they are in control. You can imagine someone in the street falling down and you going to help that person to get up. Then something happens.”

And Vanier’s answer? It is very simple: “Friendship!” And that starts with listening.  



Listening opens the door to something far more radical than charity: mutual transformation, mutual dignity.  “As you listen to that person you become friends. Perhaps you discover that he or she is living in squalor and has little money. You are not just being generous, you are entering into a relationship which will change your life. You are no longer in control. You have become vulnerable; you have come to love that person…”



L’Arche applauds the International Day of Charity. Let’s celebrate Jean Vanier’s birthday by remembering his revolutionary insight: the real name of the game is human solidarity: more than ever, what the world needs today is a side-by-side sharing of gifts. It needs community. In Vanier’s words, “The strong need the weak as much as the weak need the strong.”