Impact is a theme in our community this year and who knows about the impact of L’Arche better than people who have been part of our community? So we reached out to current and former community members to hear about their stories and relationships, and how L’Arche GWDC has impacted them. This is the eighth in a series of interviews with current and former community members of L’Arche GWDC titled: #LarcheImpact.
When were you at L’Arche GWDC and what were your role(s)?
I was a summer volunteer at 6th Street in 2012, an assistant at Highland House from July – October 2014, and the Home Life Leader at 6th Street from October 2014 – July 2016.
What brought you to L’Arche?
Sarah Ruszkowski! (Sarah is now part of the L’Arche Chicago community, but shared life in L’Arche GWDC for over five years). I worked with Sarah when I was a student at Notre Dame and right after she graduated. She shared with me and many other coworkers how excited she was to be moving to L’Arche GWDC. I had never experienced intentional community before college but really valued it there and decided I wanted to learn more about L’Arche.
The following summer I had the opportunity to be a summer volunteer at L’Arche and promptly fell in love with the community, particularly my housemates at 6th Street. Charles is one of the most unabashed recruiters I have ever met, and after graduation it felt right to return to L’Arche GWDC.
What’s one of your favorite memories at L’Arche?
Charles often calls his housemates “giggleboxes”, and I think some of my most treasured memories of life in L’Arche involved how easily and how often we laughed together. Bruce sometimes goes into utterly infectious laughing fits that can last for 20 minutes and can be triggered by totally mundane things: like the time a very tall housemate told a story about trying on a Bruce-sized sweater, or once when Bruce dropped rice on the floor after a housemate had been drying a cell phone out in it. Laughing with housemates happened all the time yet never got old. There is a lot of joy in life at L’Arche.
What encouragement/advice do you have for people who are considering L’Arche?
Another assistant told me this my first day as a summer volunteer: L’Arche is not a place to take a “break” or “gap” from real life. L’Arche IS real life, and I am immensely grateful for the ways I learned to concentrate on people and relationships when I lived at L’Arche. L’Arche taught me to listen more attentively, to love more vulnerably, to become more brave, to share my stories, to walk alongside others, to slow down, to let myself be supported, and to grow in faith. Community life means something different to everyone, but it is absolutely worth entering into.
How did you grow in your time at L’Arche?
I think my time in L’Arche softened me and strengthened me simultaneously. I was reminded that love can’t be earned, and was extended grace a million times over that I could never deserve. I learned to rejoice in small moments and small victories: a meal that made it to the table on time, a housemate’s courage at the doctor’s office, vacuuming the steps together, going Christmas shopping or apple picking, singing and dancing together at church, holding a housemate’s hand. But big things happened while I lived in community, too: births and deaths, vacations and a National Gathering, getting 6th Street’s floors resurfaced, transitions and illnesses, disagreements and mistakes. I was reminded over and over again that celebrations are sweeter and challenges are more manageable when we enter into them together. Life in community taught me to strive more for wholeness than perfection, and that simple shift in perspective has made a huge difference in my life.
How does your time at L’Arche impact you today?
I am a first-year medical student in South Carolina and I talk about L’Arche all the time. It has shaped everything from my nightly routine (I like to imagine that I am packing my lunch and setting up the coffee machine for the next morning at the same time Laurie and Charles do) to the way I hope to practice medicine someday. L’Arche taught me how to take better care of myself, to see others as children of God full of immense dignity and unique gifts, and to be more patient. In medical school, this translates into making time for exercise and cooking and meaningful conversations, a heightened desire to know and care for vulnerable patients, and more trust that God is walking with me along the way. I am also incredibly grateful for the friendships from L’Arche that continue to sustain me as I grow into a new place. Hazel’s almost weekly phone calls are an absolute gift.
Do you have a favorite picture of your time at L’Arche you could share with us?
We invite you to share your own responses to the “#LarcheImpact” questions. Your responses can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
We are actively seeking new live-in and live-out assistants. Apply today!