Journeying with L’Arche

By Megan Davey

Megan shared time with the Arlington community during the summer of 2017 as part of the Summer Service Learning program through Notre Dame. 

When I walked into my bedroom at 6th Street for the first time, my eyes were drawn to a sticky note posted on the window. I remember reading the verse from the Gospel of Luke scribbled on the yellow square and feeling almost disappointed. It read, “What is the kingdom of God like? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden…It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Luke 13:18). Of all verses, why would this be chosen as the only one to hang in my room?

It wasn’t until my last morning as I was standing in my doorway scanning the room one last time to ensure I wasn’t leaving anything behind that the sticky note grabbed my attention again.

My time at L’Arche began slowly, learning names and stories and adjusting to this lifestyle concerned not with achievements, but with gifts. I settled into a foreign house inhabited by strangers, not knowing how deep our relationships would grow. I was hesitant and reserved, but willing enough to give an initial yes. I let God sow a mustard seed in the garden of my heart, thinking it’d hardly sprout. I figured it’d be a rewarding experience, I’d learn a bit about myself, I’d grow in faith. I’d live at L’Arche for eight weeks and then I’d go back to school. What I didn’t understand was that I don’t just “leave L’Arche.” I don’t just show up, lend a helping hand, and then leave.

Instead, that mustard seed sprouts. An unrecognizable tree grows. I form beautiful and fruitful relationships. My branches become intertwined with others’ branches. The roots are deep within the ground; they can’t just be moved. I can never “leave L’Arche,” because now I have this tree. I have these relationships that have made me reconsider who I am and who God is and how it is that we’re all called to be together. Now, I don’t want to “leave L’Arche.” I want L’Arche to be with me. I want these relationships to continue bearing fruit. When people see me, I want them to see Francine, Charles, Laurie, Bruce, Kelly, Eric, Hazel, and Fritz.

To Frannie, thank you for your gift of joy. You find a way to make any moment a reason for celebration. I’ll miss our walks, the mommy birds, and holding your hand.

To Charles, thank you for your gift of curiosity. You let no moment pass without being a part of it. I’ll miss your questions, your laugh, and your art of saying “I love you” right at that moment when I’m beginning to lose patience.

To Laurie, thank you for your gift of confidence. You remind me how important it is to embrace every part of myself. I’ll miss our fabulous biking parties, your fabulous outfits, and the fabulous tickling.

To Bruce, thank you for your gift of sensitivity. You know the perfect times for jokes, for nostalgia, and for silence. I’ll miss seeing your bright smile emerging from your room, the late night raisins, and Legos.

To Kelly, thank you for your gift of memory. You show others you care by staying updated and giving them your valuable attention. I’ll miss your consistent prayers, our watching Wheel of Fortune, and your reliable tie dye.

To Eric, thank you for your gift of welcome.  You radiate warmth and belonging when you wrap your arms around me as I enter the door. I’ll miss your Star Trek knowledge, your dedication to your friends, and your basketball skills.

To Hazel, thank you for your gift of loyalty. You offer a sense of relief simply by being present and you let no friend slip through the cracks. I’ll miss THAT SMILE, our porch sits, and our lip smacks.

To Fritz, thank you for your gift of faith. You’re a man of unwavering faith who has taught me the value in making time for what’s important. I’ll miss your flowers, your willingness to help out around the house without being asked, and your prayers.

To L’Arche, thank you for your gift of journeying. Jean Vanier said, “If you enter into relationship with a lonely or suffering person you will discover something else: that it is you who are being healed. The broken person will reveal to you your own hurt and the hardness of your heart, but also how much you are loved.” Thank you for being an undeniable source of God’s grace, healing, and gentleness.