Participating in a 5K race, flying to see a friend in Seattle, hosting a tea party, doing the laundry independently. Every year at some point all core members (adults with intellectual disabilities) at L’Arche GWDC have an annual planning meeting to set goals and intentions such as these for the year ahead. This process is called a MAP or “My Annual Plan.” Ever since my first time participating in a core member’s MAP, I’ve been inspired and encouraged by the whole process!
Friends and family gather for a core member’s MAP. It begins with affirming the growth and gifts the community sees in the core member and checking in on life and relationships at home, work, church, and elsewhere. Out of this rootedness, core members set goals that reflect their priorities and desires, with the input and support of others. Often they will choose someone in their community to work with them on a specific goal.
The MAP meetings are a unique core member specific experience at L’Arche GWDC. However, the questions asked during the MAP process are universal and helpful for anyone who chooses to sit with them. In my first year at L’Arche GWDC, on the Exploratory Retreat– a spiritual retreat for new assistants and employees at L’Arche in the eastern region– a spiritual advisor gave my overwhelmed, eager, and growing self a written guide of questions born out of the L’Arche GWDC MAP process.
For the last four years I’ve reflected on these questions at some point in the year. When I start to feel lost with my priorities and future, when I think, “What do I even like to do?” or “Where am I going?” or the infamous “Who am I?”–I get out my journal and the now wrinkly paper of reflection questions inspired by core member’s MAPs and get to work.
During my most recent reflection on these questions, I set a goal to reduce the waste I am producing by monitoring my consumption habits. My 2020 desire for a low-waste lifestyle is born out of my growing awareness of how my lifestyle choices can contribute to the negative effects of climate change. This goal is also shaped by my growing awareness that climate change impacts will fall most heavily on the disenfranchised, marginalized, and underprivileged, including on people with disabilities. Much of this awareness has been sparked by my husband’s environmental advocacy work and the increased recognition of climate change in the public sector.
As I was naming this goal and learning more about how I could decrease my waste and consumption, I recognized that the next step in the MAP process for core members is to name someone to help with the goal. Inspired by this step, I decided that I too needed to invite someone to support and accompany me along the way. The first person that came to my mind was my coworker, community member, and friend–Eileen!
On our walks to and from the L’Arche office in Adams Morgan, Eileen would often ask me about my husband Jonathan’s job and eventually we’d get to talking about taking care of the earth. I shared examples of our homes in L’Arche GWDC making efforts to cut down waste– such as composting food scraps and purchasing reusable plates and silverware for all-community gatherings. We talked about trash in the street and by her church, how I saw a squirrel trying to eat a bottle cap and how our trash can flow into the ocean. Eileen told me about her “trash walks” where she goes out in the community with gloves and trashbags to clean streets and parks. Yes, with our shared passion for sustainability, Eileen was just the person to support me with my goal of reducing my waste production!
I invited Elieen to join me on a low-waste adventure – visiting a newly opened store where I could refill mason jars with different soaps and to a food co-op to check out their bulk food section. She said “yes” and on a sunny Saturday we packed our bags with old mason jars and took to the road to Takoma Park!
We filled up our jars with laundry detergent and dish soap, olive oil and honey, and many many many different dried bulk goods. To be honest, it wasn’t the most convenient way to shop. You have to get your jars weighed before filling up and make sure you write the correct item number on the jar. However, it was fulfilling to know that everything we bought enabled us to use less packaging that would have likely ended up in landfills. What we purchased was high quality AND most items were slightly cheaper than if purchased with packaging! It turns out that winding around the store looking at all of the different bulk food options, searching for pens that worked, and filling up jars was actually a great way to spend a Saturday with a friend.
How thankful I am for the reflection questions inspired by the MAP process and for the way core members model setting goals–especially in naming others to support them. Eileen’s accompaniment in my first 2020 waste-conscious grocery outing serves as a reminder to me that relationships at L’Arche GWDC are far from one-sided. L’Arche isn’t just a place where core members are supported in accomplishing their goals, it’s a community where everyone’s gifts, passions and goals are valued and supported.
Be sure to keep L’Arche GWDC in mind as you think about who you want to spend time with and who you want to help you in 2020!