by Maureen Byrnes
On May 2, 2017, L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. gathered at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel to host our 10th annual Heart of L’Arche Breakfast. This reflection was shared as one of the highlights of our breakfast. The theme of the 2017 Heart of L’Arche Breakfast was “L’Arche Impact!”
Good morning. I was asked to share with you a little bit about my friendship with Hazel and to touch on the impact that she and L’Arche have had on my life.
I am actually in the business of measuring impact. I have spent a good deal of my Washington, DC career measuring the impact of government and nonprofit programs. But when I was asked to talk with you about my friendship with Hazel, and the impact of L’Arche on my life, it seemed like a very different assignment. This friendship is not strategic. It did not start out as a project with a stated goal and set of objectives. It started out as two women meeting each other and discovering we just liked each other. In fact, I think you could say we sort of get each other.
Like so many wonderful things in life it happened by chance. One day I met John Cook and he invited me to come to dinner at any of the four L’Arche communities in DC. That was three years ago.
Now, once a month I go to Highland House for dinner. And as I tell many of my friends, I don’t even bring dinner. I just go like any friend would go to a friend’s house. I usually bring something with me and it is sort of fun every month to think about what to bring. A plant, a pumpkin, St. Patrick’s Day napkins, whatever… And, every time I go I pretty much know I’ll see and get to spend some time with Hazel, and that makes it all very special.
Hazel and I have also had some adventures. Last month Hazel, Sarah and I went to Ford’s Theatre to see the musical Ragtime. One time Sarah and Hazel came to my house for lunch and before we ate, I am a little embarrassed to tell you, that the three of us all danced around my apartment to James Brown music because Hazel really likes James Brown.
But my all-time favorite memory – so far – is when I met up with Sarah and Hazel in Philadelphia two summers ago. They were on vacation and I had some work to do there. One of the things we did was meet for lunch at a famous brewery. And even though Hazel does enjoy a good beer, we were mostly going there just to have lunch. For a variety of reasons, we all arrived at the brewery about 15 minutes earlier than when it opened. I can’t really explain it but somehow the image I am about to describe to you sums up my friendship with Hazel – and Sarah. When the person came to unlock the front door and leaned down to pull up the metal gate – there standing before her were three women who must have looked like the most unlikely trio waiting with baited breath to enter a brewery. There was Sarah in shorts and a tee-shirt looking all lovely and summery. There was Hazel in her wheelchair sporting what I am sure was a new Philly baseball cap. And there was me, in your typical work attire for a woman of a certain age in DC. All three of us standing there as though we could not stand to wait another moment ’til we had a beer, at like 11:30 in the morning! We thought it was hilarious and have laughed about it many times.
That’s the impact Hazel and L’Arche have had on my life – deciding to take a chance showing up as a stranger for dinner three years ago. Now showing up once a month and planning outings and trips with Hazel that are sure to have their unexpected twists and turns.
Can I analyze and measure the impact all this has had on my life? No, and I don’t want to. It’s not a project. It’s my life.
The video below is Hazel’s, from the same trip to Philadelphia where she and Sarah Clemmer met up with Maureen Byrnes for their brewery lunch.
Please celebrate with us and discover the impact of L’Arche for yourself by visiting our homes or sharing a gift with us of yourselves. You can also make a financial gift to help support all of our current homes.Tags: Arlington, community, Dinner, disability, Friends, gifts, Highland, Impact, intellectual disability, L'Arche, L'Arche Greater Washington DC