Last year, a large psychiatric hospital in Queens opened up a small bookstore a few blocks from my house. The employees are “severely mentally ill adult patients.” I initially began going to buy cheap, second-hand books for $2.00 or less. But I have found myself returning more and more. Why? I finally got it. I return for my soul. I love being with the staff. They are kind, unassuming, and unpretentious. I finally understood why Henri Nouwen became a chaplain for mentally and physically challenged adults at L’Arche. His words below are worth reading slowly. “The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house for mentally handicapped people was their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, they could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my 20 yrs at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction.…. This experience forced me to rediscover my true identity. These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things – and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I’m completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments…. The great message we have to carry as followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.” This is why I need to be with the broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious of this world. They offer me a great gift. They help ground me in Jesus. They strip me of illusions. They remind me of what life really is about — the giving and receiving of love. We recently began a podcast called “The Emotionally Healthy Leader.” Last week we talked about “Differentiation.” Listen to it when you can as it relates to this theme of remaining grounded.
Posted on April 5th, 2013