It was Friday evening, the busiest time of the week. On Fridays we would go out for supper, and later attend worship with the whole Daybreak community.t was Friday evening, the busiest time of the week. On Fridays we would go out for supper, and later attend worship with the whole Daybreak community.
Somehow all of us managed to get something to eat and to the chapel on time. Yet, as often happens in L’Arche, the service started late, so it got out late. By the time we got home I was exhausted, from the late hour but also from the stress of feeling responsible for everything.
This was my state when accompanying Brian as he got ready for bed. Brian required help every evening with personal care, mostly in the form of reminders, and assistance as needed. All I could think about was sleep, so I was short and impatient with him. While part of me knew that I was not fully present and needed to center myself, somehow I just did not feel capable of doing it at that moment. And Brian had to pay the price.
We made it through, however, and it was time to wish Brian a good night. As I took Brian’s glasses and placed them on the end table by his bed, Brian said, “Thank you, Jason.” A simple statement that we often repeat, usually without thinking about it.
But, you see, Brian had never before said thank you when I put his glasses away, and never said it again.
I was stunned. Brian, I thought, you want to thank me, the one who was testy and impatient and preoccupied? What sort of a grace did you embody to me? How did you know that I needed affirmation for all I had done that day, and for my intention of being in relationship with you?
I left Brian’s room speechless and humbled. His “thank you” became the Word that breaks into the world and transforms a situation from darkness into light. In a profound way, the Holy Spirit was moving and reconciling through Brian’s affirmation of me. His words were also a tangible moment when I recognized that my perception of a person with a developmental disability as a passive recipient of care needed fundamental transformation. In that moment Brian was my teacher, called by God to embody for me gratitude and hospitality.
So let’s watch for thank yous that come our way, especially from those we least expect. God may be speaking through them, to affirm us in our being and transform perceptions about who is from God and who is not.
Jason Greig served as a ministry intern with Anabaptist Disabilities Network while studying at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.