de Vinck inspires AU campus

Tue, 2012-07-24 10:36 -- univcomm
Christopher de Vinck, award-winning author, columnist and public school administrator, was a recent campus guest speaker for chapel/convocation at AU. He shared his inspiring story of his brother, Oliver, who died in 1980 at 32 years of age. This story was published in the Wall Street Journal, later to be reprinted in Reader’s Digest. Responses to this article were overwhelming, including calls and letters from former President Reagan, Oprah Winfrey and the Pope. An excerpt from Chris’s article says, “Even now, five years after his death from pneumonia on March 12, 1980, Oliver still remains the weakest, most helpless human being I ever met, and yet he was one of the most powerful human beings I ever met.”

“I want to tell you about my brother, Oliver,” said de Vinck to the AU community that had gathered in Reardon Auditorium. “Oliver had no intellect, he could not learn, and his hands, legs and feet were twisted. He spent every day of his life for 32 years at home in bed on his back for 32 years. He could not speak, see or run…he couldn’t do anything. People would say that Oliver was useless, hopeless, and impossible to deal with.

De Vinck explained how his brother was born and how his mother lovingly took care of Oliver. He proceeded to read the article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, describing the care and feeding his family took upon themselves to take care of Oliver, and how his laughter could be heard throughout the house.

“Oliver had impact on many people. He could do absolutely nothing. You have your health and the power of communication,” said de Vinck. “You have an obligation to make a difference in this world because of what God gave you. If Oliver can accomplish so much with so little, you can accomplish so much with so much more.”

Chris summarizes his feeling in The Power of the Powerless when he writes, “If Oliver had never been born, I wouldn’t have the same joys and fears and secrets I dream about today. There was a substance in the house of Oliver beyond science and philosophy and theology, for these are man-made explanations. We always feel a need to explain, to touch and hold evidence. We often feel confident that we can make decisions in the present that will guarantee comfortable results in the future. Those guarantees never exist, unless the choices we make embrace the fire in an act of love.”

"When I read The Power of the Powerless, in which he tells the story of his brother Oliver and the stories of Lauren, Anthony, and Paul, I immediately recognized that only Chris could have written it,” writes the late author and theologian Henri J. M. Nouwen. “It is so full of wonderment, amazement, gratitude, joy, peace, and renewal of life that nobody but a person with a special eye and a special ear could have written it.”

Christopher de Vinck holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University and is a public school administrator, as well as a public speaker and book author. He has been published in Reader’s Digest,Guideposts, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, just to name a few. Some of his books include The Power of the Powerless: A Brother’s Legacy of Love and Simple Wonders and Nouwen Then: Personal Reflections on Henri Nouwen. De Vinck lives in Pompton Plains, NJ with his wife Roe and their three children.

---Writer Kim Ousley is a student intern in the Office of Media and Electronic Communications at Anderson University.