Christopher Reeve said that “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
On Wednesday I met a hero named Andrew Banar. Andrew is 18. As I walked away from meeting him today I was reminded of these words of Christopher Reeves. While Andrew has Down’s Syndrome, he seems to make the best of the moments in his life. I was riding the elevator at Metropolitan Hospital and I noticed that an young man with Down’s Syndrome was selling T-Shirts and donating proceeds to a variety of groups.
[This photo courtesy of Andrew’s Mom – Karen Pickle]
The Spirit compelled me to go meet Andrew and his wonderful Mom, Karen. Am I ever glad I did. Andrew helped me pick out a good bright colour. His shirts have a logo that say “Rock On” and depict a dude playing the drums. (I think it might be a self portrait as he loves to play his guitar and the drums – Andrew loves rock and roll music and his favourite band is Greenday.) I LOVE the shirt! The shirt, in it’s simplicity is a reminder to keep rockin’ no matter what comes down the pipes.
Andrew had a lot of great questions for me. “Are you a priest?” He asked. “I want to be a priest.” Andrew told me that he met John Daley last week. He was excited that he was meeting me, I can only imagine his enthusiasm for John Daley! There is so much joy in this young man. “Is that your Bible?” he asked of the Prayer book I was carrying. He took the book, opened it up and was reading the prayers, until he had to make a business transaction – then he took my cash and made change and gave me a very happy and big, “Thank you!”
Then it was time for a picture and I could tell that Andrew was no stranger to having his photo taken. After a picture or two taken by mom, it was time for him to have me pray. He told me he had a bad tummy. Together with his mother we offered a prayer of thanksgiving for Andrew and his work. He was quite pleased to have me pray with him. I got another, “Thank you!” He told me that he is on the computer and he and his mom encouraged me to check out www.grouphugapparel.com. I encouraged them to ‘google’ Revy Kevy.
While Andrew may have been happy to have me pray with him, the truth is that in the most profound way Andrew ministered to me today. Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, said that “Growth begins when we accept our own weakness.” I think it is hard for us to accept our own weaknesses. For me personally, I sometimes feel that accepting my own weakness is tantamount to admitting failure and who wants to admit failure. But accepting our weaknesses is a part of living well as community. Vanier also writes in From Brokenness to Community, “In community we are called to love people just as they are with their wounds and their gifts, not as we would want them to be. Community means giving them space, helping them to grow. It means also receiving from them so that we too can grow.” We are all wounded – all of us! Andrew is a hero because his woundedness is not an obstacle. He reminded me today, that my woundedness should not be an obstacle either. Can we accept that? Can we all work to accept our own humanity, frailty, weakness, woundedness, insecurity, etc and understand and know that we are not ‘less than’ or incomplete because of it? It is hard when we are fed contant messages that tell us what success looks like, and weakness is not a part of it. As a people of God we need to embrace the Gospel message which is quite different than the message played in the media.We are a people whose story is played out in the brokeness and weakness of Jesus. He continues to be present to us in woundedness and in weakness. Is it possible for us to step away from the non-stop pressures of our families, our work, our social circles, and see that we are being called to seek out God? Henri Nouwen, who also lived in one of Vanier’s L’Arche communities once said that he would hear two voices. One was calling him to a big career and success. He contended that the other voice would say, "Henri, whatever you are going to do, even if you don’t do anything very interesting in the eyes of the world, be sure you stay close to the heart of Jesus, be sure you stay close to the love of God." This led him to leave the hallowed hallways of Yale and Notre Dame to live in L’Arche and care for people who were severely challenged. It was there that Nouwen felt closest to the love of God
We need not all drop our jobs and join communities to be present to the weak. But we can all step back and look to see how very much we can do if we work past our insecurities to be who God has created us to be. All of us have the capcity to see the divine in another – even in those who seem the frailist among us. We can be the image of God, even in the midst of our own dark moments. Can we learn to embrace the message on Andrew’s T-Shirts and ‘Rock On’ even through the tough stuff? I think we can… but we sometimes need encouragement. We can be encouraged to seek out Jesus. To that end please visit Andrew’s webpage at www.grouphugapparel.com and go to the events page and see where he will be in the days ahead and go visit him – for me it great encounter the Divine.
Thank you Andrew – Thank you God!