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Unconditional Love for Someone with Severe Disabilities

Jean Vanier, a Christian leader who founded L'Arche communities around the world for persons with severe disabilities, tells a story about a 76-year-old woman named Francoise, also known as "mamie." Francoise had serious mental and physical disabilities. She was blind, bedridden, and incontinent. She could not feed or dress herself. She was unable to communicate through words. And yet the entire staff of this L'Arche community followed the words of Scripture and showed Christlike love for "mamie."

But showing unconditional love wasn't always easy. One of the staff assistants, a young man called "Louis," was assigned to take care of mamie. Louis was disappointed because he did not feel drawn to her. Faithfully, as he was asked, he fed mamie, but he found it tiresome. Then one day, she placed her hand on his hand and smiled. It was, he said, a special meeting, a moment of transformation, a moment of grace. From that moment on, he loved being with her. What he had found tiresome and difficult became a blessing. Love had made all the difference.

Then one day a woman came to visit the director of that same L'Arche community. As the visitor watched mamie struggle through life—weak, blind, voiceless, powerless to feed or dress herself—she offhandedly asked the director, "What's the point of keeping Francoise alive?" The director looked at the visitor and said, "Well, madam, because I love her."

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