Well, it has been another great week here with L’Arche in Asansol. After sending a reflection last week, I joined Rahul again for Mass at the Missionaries of Charity. Even though we were ten minutes late, Rahul still chose for us to sit in the very front row. I love his joy. He was surprised and delighted that three priests were celebrating together. It was a longer Mass, maybe an hour and a half, or maybe it just felt that way because I am unfamiliar with the language. It was comforting to receive Communion with Rahul and sit in silence with everyone for a brief moment. More and more, I love every second of silence that is possible to appreciate. When Mass was over, Rahul streched his arms out wide, giggled with joy, and expressed, “God is everywhere.”
It was my first week serving in the daycare. On the first day, the karate teacher was unable to give a class, so I offered. In addition to the children in the daycare, members who attend the workshop and who work in the garden were also present, about 40 of us total! I am grateful, despite being unfamiliar with Bengali, I could help lead the activity mostly through gestures and with the help of some translating. Everyone seemed to really enjoy. I taught everyone how to kiai, shout aloud, as they threw punches and chops, something the karate teacher had not taught before. It was alot of fun.
Throughout the week, it was great to bond with the children; it was also quite tiring. Fortunately after lunch, everyone rests together on a veranda and the warm sun has felt great. A typical day in the daycare includes: a morning meeting/check in how everyone is doing, going for a brief walk, arts and crafts/learning skills, tea time, lunch, rest time, some physical activity, tea and biscuits, and reviewing goals at the end of the day. I was asked to assist Rounak and Sagil this week; every week, different groups are chosen to work together. Rounak and Sagil are sister and brother and wonderful. They really enjoyed coloring in pictures of elephants, flowers, cats, and dogs and showing them off. At the end of the week, I encouraged everyone to participate in activity that Pierre Sanders introduced to L’Arche GWDC a few years ago; we all sat in a circle and passed a ball to one another. As the ball was received, the person with the ball led everyone in a brief dance and everyone else copied her/his gesture(s). Needless to say, it was a goofy and fun time for all.
It has been a gift to remain committed to “Maria Massage” this week. It is likely I will support Maria with his massage/physical therapy for the remaining weeks I am here. He is one of the founding members of this community, and it is so good to sit with him in those moments. He is so peaceful. I cannot really describe it. It is just wonderful to be with Maria, a holy time. We then have evening prayer soon after.
If I had to share one challenge from the week, it would be that most of us have had cold symptoms. I have been reflecting a lot about being part of a Body and what that means. There is awareness of unity and strength that comes from being part of a Body/Community. It also leaves members to experience vulnerability together. Hopefully we will all continue to recover. I am feeling pretty good this afternoon. Please know your prayer is appreciated. We all realize it is good to rest, when possible, and drink plenty of fluids.
One thing I mentioned before that it quite moving is that members of Asha Niketan really look out for one another. If it is someone’s free day/day off, or someone is running late, there is always a plate of food set aside for her or him if they wish. There are currently 20 of us living together! Surandan just came earlier this week to serve as a live-in volunteer for one month. It is amazing how we can all share this space and call it home.
Thank you for your prayers. Members of Asha Niketan Chennai will be in Asansol for L’Arche India’s General Assembly later this month, and I will be able to give you an update then about how the community has recovered after the flooding.
I look forward to hearing from you 🙂
Peace & All Good,
James Schreiner is an assistant member of L’Arche Greater Washington DC at Highland House. James moved to Asha Niketan Asansol in India in December to experience life with the L’Arche community there. See his first letter he sent back to our community.