A Valentine From Charles

A few weeks ago I was packing my desk to get ready to move from one L’Arche office to another. Among the assortment of papers cluttering my desk was a Valentine, curled and faded from sitting in the windowsill for nearly a year.

The day I received that card I was having a bad day. I’d ordered cardstock instead of envelopes, then drove all over Arlington looking for the right kind of envelope in which to mail our annual fundraising breakfast invitations. After stopping at multiple stores I came to the conclusion that I would just have to order more envelopes and wait to send out the invitations.

I hate making mistakes. In my head, a little dialogue played back and forth – one side saying it isn’t a big deal and the other side asking how I could be so careless. Neither side was winning, and it was exhausting.

Finally, I decided to take a break from work and seek out the members of the 6th Street household for solace.

Charles Clark had just arrived home from work and was standing in the kitchen wearing his sport coat and tie. The minute he saw me he pulled a slightly wrinkled envelope out of his jacket pocket and handed it to me with his infamous mischievous grin.

It was a Valentine with my name on it, and inside Charles had scrawled I will always love you.

He enveloped me in a bear hug and swayed me back and forth. I could hear the emotion in his voice as he declared brotherly love to me. I let myself relax. A third voice – Charles’ voice – had entered the dialogue in my head, and it won.

Bethany Keener joined L’Arche in 2009 as director of communications and development.