“The excluded, I believe, live certain values that we all need to discover and to live ourselves before we can become truly human.”

A passion for humankind

Jean Vanier

Becoming Human, House of Anansi/DLT, 1999

Until we realize that we belong to a common humanity, that we need each other, that we can help each other, we will continue to hide behind feelings of elitism and superiority and behind the walls of prejudice, judgement, and disdain that those feelings engender.

Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity

As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We no longer judge each other according to concepts of power and knowledge or according to group identity, but according to these personal, heart-to-heart encounters. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgement and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart. We begin to see each other as brothers and sisters in humanity. We are no longer governed by fear but by the heart.

How do we move from exclusion to inclusion?

The excluded, I believe, live certain values that we all need to discover and to live ourselves before we can become truly human. It is not just a question of performing good deeds for those who are excluded but of being open and vulnerable to them in order to receive the life that they can offer; it is to become their friends. If we start to include the disadvantaged in our lives and enter into heartfelt relationships with them, they will change things in us. They will call us to be people of mutual trust, to take time to listen and be with each other. They will call us out from our individualism and need for power into belonging to each other and being open to others. They will break down the prejudices and protective walls that gave rise to exclusion in the first place. They will then start to affect our human organizations, revealing new ways of being and walking together.

So, the one-way street, where those on top tell those at the bottom what to do, what to think, and how to be, becomes a two-way street, where we listen to what they, the “outsiders”, the “strangers”, have to say and we accept what they have to give, that is, a simpler and more profound understanding of what it means to be truly human. If we start to see people at the bottom as friends, as people with gifts to bring to others, then the social pyramid, with the powerful, the knowledgeable, and the wealthy on top, becomes a place of belonging where each person finds their place and where we live in mutual trust.

Is this a utopian vision? If it is lived at the grassroots level, in families, communities, and other places of belonging, this vision can gradually permeate our societies and humanize them.