Day 11 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 11

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Chapter 3

After my nine years at the Daybreak community, Adam, Michael, Bill, Tracy, Susanne, Loretta, David, Francis, Patrick, Janice, Carol, Gordie, George, and many others who live at the heart of our community have become my friends. More than friends, they are an intimate part of my daily life. Although they still are as handicapped as when I first met them, I seldom think of them as people with handicaps. I think of them as brothers and sisters with whom I share my life. I laugh with them, cry with them, eat dinners with them, go to the movies with them, pray and celebrate with them-in short, live my life with them. They truly fill me with immense joy.

After caring for Adam for a few months, I was no longer afraid of him. Waking him up in the morning, giving him a bath and brushing his teeth, shaving his beard and feeding him breakfast had created such a bond between us-a bond beyond words and visible signs of recognition-that I started to miss him when we couldn’t be together. My time with him had become a time of prayer, silence, and quiet intimacy. Adam had become a true peacemaker for me, a man who loved and trusted me even when I made the water for his bath too hot or too cold, cut him with the razor, or gave him the wrong type of clothes to wear.

His epileptic seizures no longer scared me either. They simply caused me to slow down, forget about other obligations, and stay with him, covering him with heavy blankets to keep him warm. His difficult and very slow walk no longer irritated me but gave me an opportunity to stand behind him, put my arms around his waist, and speak encouraging words as he took one careful step after the other. His spilling a glass full of orange juice or dropping his spoon with food on the floor no longer made me panic but simply made me clean up. Knowing Adam became a privilege for me. \Who can be as close to another human being as I could be to Adam? Who can spend a few hours each day with a man who gives you all his confidence and trust? Isn’t that what joy is?

And Michael, Adam’s brother: what a gift his friendship became! He became the only one in the community who calls me “Father Henri.” Every time he says that, there is a smile on his face, suggesting that he really should be a Father too! With his halting, stuttering voice, he keeps saying, pointing to the large stole around my neck, “I … want … that … too … Father. ” ‘When Michael is sad because his brother is sick, or because he has many seizures himself, or because someone he loves is leaving, he comes to me, puts his arms around me, and lets his tears flow freely. Then after a while he grabs me by the shoulder, looks at me, and with a big smile breaking through his tears he says: “You are … a … funny … Father!” When we pray together, he often points to his heart and says: “I feel … it… here … here in my heart.” But as we hold hands, there is that immense joy that emerges from our shared sorrow.

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