It is in belonging that people discover what it means to be human.
—Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche International
Who among us has not known the deep-seated fear of exclusion and isolation? In suffering loneliness and rejection we develop a longing for community—a desire to become part of a whole, of a group of people who love and accept us for who we are.
Jean Vanier understood both this pain and its counterpoint longing and showed the rest of the world a simple but profound way to bring people together. In a humble home in the French countryside, Jean and two men with intellectual disabilities founded the first L’Arche community, and the dream of L’Arche was born. This beautiful, radical notion—that people with and without intellectual disabilities could belong to each other in a place of safety—resonated with people longing to belong, and L’Arche homes began opening first across France, then North America, and soon all over the world.
This year, as L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., celebrates thirty years of belonging, we reflect on how our members, board, volunteers, families, friends, and even passing strangers have felt the warmth of acceptance we nurture in our homes and hearts.
The desire to belong is fundamental to human beings. It is essential to each assistant and core person who walks through our door. It is what transforms strangers into friends, friends into family. And it is from this sense of belonging that our work flows: we build community, provide personalized support, and advocate for and with each other because we belong to each other.
As we look ahead to our next thirty years, we concertedly weave the thread of belonging into our strategic plan: over the next few years we hope to open additional homes, deepen our advocacy for each other, and find new, even more meaningful ways to share with others what L’Arche offers, thereby expanding and deepening our commitment to welcome and to each other.
The miracle of L’Arche is this: among the most isolated is found the warmest welcome; those most stung by society’s rejection offer the balm of belonging, an invitation with no strings attached, no caveats or quid pro quos
Thank you, friends, for accepting the invitation.
Fr. Thomas P. Gaunt, SJ