About my friend Vasyl! And about other things…

Once upon a time in an enchanted country, or rather on an undiscovered planet, 329 years back in the future, lived a race of people. These people were strange and did not look at all like us. They were tall and majestic, like true giants, but their personalities were that of small children. Were it not for their impressive outward appearance, you would have thought that you were conversing with children who were just starting first grade. They lived on this particular planet because, unfortunately, people on other planets did not accept these majestic giants and didn't want them living there. They would look at them and think "Why are these giant people laughing like small children? Why are they enjoying the warm sunshine, when there is so much work to be done?" Most unfortunately, people on other planets neither liked nor understood these giants, and for this reason whenever they spotted one of these giants or giantesses in the company of their family or friends, they would immediately try to send him or her to the other planet, where the giants were forced to live alone.

But there were among these people from the other planets individuals who, for some strange reason, felt a great love within their hearts for these giants, feeling deep down inside that their strange behavior was on some deeper level truer and more sincere than their own, and this openness was a wonderful example of the right way to live. For this reason, every once in a while, guests from other planets would visit these giants on their planet and would live with them for a part of their lives, learning from them the wisdom of their way of life - a way of life that was open and sincere, and childlike in outlook and reactions - and learning to accept love and to show love, and live as people ought to live. Time went on, some guests would arrive while others would leave, everything would change, except for the giants, who were always there and with sorrowful eyes would say good-bye to the guests who were returning back to their home planets to build their lives there. The giants understood everything and accepted everything. They understood that their guests wanted to be useful to them and that they tried very hard to make the giants' lives as pleasant as possible, but they also saw that their guests had other aims and goals and work to do in their own lives. So they would let them go. What else could they do?

One day, yet another guest arrived on the planet. His name was..... What was his name? I think that his name must have been Elgernon. That's what I think. He arrived on this planet to see the world in a very different light, through different eyes. And indeed he succeeded. Through the giants that he had befriended, he learned all about acceptance and love. When he first arrived as a guest among them, the giants did not wait for him to come up to them to introduce himself, but instead they themselves came up to him and sincerely and with great warmth would invite him to share their world. The giants did not demand anything of anyone; they were not superficial and did not put on airs, did not criticize anyone’s outward appearance or conduct - they simply wanted to be friends. This kind of conduct was very strange to a person who had been born in a world where every little detail of one's life was important.

Time passed, and Elgernon became more and more acquainted with the world of the giants. Not everything made sense to him, but he learned much from his new friends and, as it appeared to Elgernon, their friendship deepened and got stronger with every passing day. And so on one particular day, definitely a day filled with sunshine, at the very start of spring, when the weather is so enchanting and so fresh and clear in its warmth, Elgernon went for a walk with one of his giant friends. And since it was the second day of spring, the sun was shining in such a way that it had not yet shined that year. And the sky was so blue. And the snow was brilliant white, and the paths so cleanly-whitely tamped down. But one can already feel the warmth in the air. And all of this was so exquisitely wonderful. Elgernon took off his hat for the first time and this was such a treat, because you know what it’s like to take off your hat for the first time after a long hard winter and with a bit of chill still in the air.

Vasyl – this was the giant’s name – also enjoyed his walk through the beautiful park. He suggested that they take a few photographs. And he snapped a picture of Elgernon, and then Elgernon snapped a picture of Vasyl, and then they both continued on their walk at a leisurely pace, but very much together. So together, that Elgernon felt a calm come over him as never before. Vasyl took his hand, for he always loved to walk hand in hand because this made him truly feel their friendship, and together they floated in the blueness of the sky, the whiteness of the snow and the wonderful warmth of the sun. For a moment the whole world came to a halt for these two people, slowly walking along in the park on the second day of spring, bathed in brilliant sunshine.

In moments such as these, one gets the strange feeling that the planet on which you happen to be on is truly your planet, and the building that you would like to build, you would like to build right here and live in this building on this planet along with these giants because they…. they know how to hold your hand and create a different reality….and you don’t need anything else…. for this is all you really need to know…. this knowledge, which can’t be taught, this knowledge which every person has to find for himself… 

And then they started to speak to each other in German, and it sounded like this:

Vasyl: “khavo diko khikho nuno bu do bi.”

Elgernon (translation): “Vasyl is having a nice walk in the park.”

And then they changed roles.

And they also recited poems, which Vasyl would make up as they walked along, and they sang songs. And this was all so simple.Because somewhere there really is a world where life can be so simple.

We can all be – something that we often do not understand – both giants and people, because there is no real difference between the two, because these differences were made up by frightened inhabitants of over-populated planets, where you can find universities, academies and other useless things, but where you often cannot find a heart which knows everything or feels anything.

Maybe someday Elgernon will put up his building here, and possibly other guests might also build here, and maybe one day we all will learn to live together – to be human. For it’s so simple to share with others what you have. And it is so wonderful to accept gifts from others. After all, this world has room enough for all of us. And I believe that is the way it was intended by the One who we can only attempt to comprehend. 

Volodymyr Stanchyshyn, L'Arche assistant