Day 31 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 31

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Chapter 8

Gordie Henry, who has Down’s syndrome, is one of the core members of the Daybreak community. Once he said to me, “What is good about our life is that you make so many friends. What is hard about our life is that so many friends leave.” With this simple observation Gordie touched the place where joy and sorrow are embracing each other. As a longtime member of Daybreak, Gordie has had many assistants come to live with him. They came from various countries, sometimes for a summer, sometimes for a year, sometimes for many years. They all loved Gordie very much, and Gordie came to love them. Strong attachments and deep bonds of friendship developed.

But sooner or later, the assistants had to leave. Some got married, some returned to school, some lost their work permits, some looked for a new direction in life, and some discovered that community life wasn’t for them. Gordie, however, stayed, and felt the intense pain of the many separations.

One day, Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, came to visit Daybreak. He gathered the whole community around him and said, “What questions would you most like to ask me?” Thelus, one of the core members who had lived at Daybreak as long as Gordie, raised her hand and said: “Why are people leaving all the time?” Jean understood this question was not just Thelus’ question but also Gordie’s question and the question of all long-term Daybreak members.
He gently moved closer to her and said: “You know, Thelus, that is the most important question you can ask. Because you and many others want to make Daybreak your home, where you can feel well loved and well protected. What then does it mean when so often someone you love, and who loves you, leaves your home, sometimes for good? Why then do you have to suffer the pain of so many departures? It may feel as if people do not really love you! Because if they love you, why would they leave you?”

As he was speaking, everyone looked at him very attentively. They knew this man truly understood their pain and sincerely cared for them. They wanted to hear what he had to say. With great gendeness and compassion, Jean looked at everyone who was listening and said: “You know, your joy and your pain give you a mission.”

Those who came to live with you, from whom you received much and to whom you gave much, aren’t just leaving you. You are sending them back to their schools, their homes, and their families, to bring some of the love they have lived with you. Its hard. It’s painful to let them go. But when you realize that this is a mission, you will be able to send your friends to continue their journeys without losing the joy they brought you.”

These simple words entered deep into our hearts because they made us look differently at what had seemed such a harsh tearing apart. The cup of joy and sorrow had become the cup of salvation.

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