Freely Give in Love

Debora Green and Sarah Ruszkowski brave Pittsburgh's winter. Photo by Michelle Wirth

My faith has been deeply formed by two people with disabilities. Rosie was like my baby, and Deb is like my second mother.

While I was in college I spent two summers as Rosie’s nanny. Rosie had Down syndrome and a number of heart problems. I loved being with her, communicating through sign, playing with my dog, and letting her pretend to talk on my phone.

The weekend of her third birthday her parents had to be away, so I made her cake and threw her a little party. I called her my rosebud.

After my second summer with her I went to Spain for a study-abroad semester. When I left she was happy and healthy.

Then I got a text that Rosie, my sweet little three-year-old, had suddenly passed away.  She had a cold and her mother took her to the doctor, who had her airlifted to a children’s hospital. By that evening she was gone.

I felt so alone. I was a continent away from my family and friends, living with a host family that I couldn’t communicate with very well, with people who didn’t know about this little girl I loved so much.

There was no campus ministry or a group of people to go to mass with me, so I went to a little chapel by myself every day to pray with the little old Spanish ladies.

During that time it was just God and me. I had to learn to rely on God because I was so far from the community I had grown up with.

Rosie was integral in my decision to come to L’Arche. By the end of college I had read so much about it that I knew this was the place I wanted to be. I came to L’Arche in the summer of 2011 and Deb and I began accompanying each other.

Deb needs me, but I need her, too. It’s hard to be far from home and my family. I really miss my mom, and Deb makes that easier because she hugs me and holds my hand.

Deb’s faith is so evident. When we pray after dinner I can’t wait to hear what she is going to say—it is always deep and meaningful. She’s teaching me to be comfortable in myself and in my relationships with others.

After being in L’Arche for six months I approached Deb to try to figure out what I could do to be a better accompanier to her. She just said, “You don’t have to change anything.”

The most important thing Rosie and Deb have taught me is to freely give in love; that is enough.

Sarah Ruszkowski is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where she studied theology and psychology. You can follow the story of Sarah’s life in L’Arche through her blog, How Can I Keep From Singing?