(Lent) Message in a (Shampoo) Bottle

Last week I found myself at my neighborhood urgent care center getting x-rays for my big toe. A ridiculous accident involving a bottle of shampoo had me cracking jokes and laughing … until I arrived home and faced the three steps from the street to my sidewalk.

I stood there staring at them. Three steps. Two crutches. One big, bad toe. My husband assured me he wouldn’t let me fall backward so I took a tentative wobble  -and went down forward.

Suddenly, this didn’t seem so funny any more. I had to get up another set of steps into my home, and yet another to my bedroom and bathroom on the second level.

I thought of Hazel Pulliam, one of my friends from L’Arche. Just four days earlier she had navigated these same steps so she could join our family for lunch. Her mobility is much more limited than mine, but she bravely left her wheelchair in the trunk of the car and made her way up the stairs and back down again after lunch.

In the days since my injury I have thought often of my L’Arche friends who daily rely on those around them just to get out of bed. I am inspired by the trust they place in their housemates and their victories over their physical limitations.

Those who daily share their bodily strength equally inspire me. Physical disabilities are hurdles, yes, but in L’Arche they don’t stop people from riding roller coasters, going on water slides, sightseeing from double-decker buses, or visiting a friend’s inaccessible home.

A week after the accident my family attended a L’Arche prayer night and community meeting. When my younger son asked me to fill his cup with water, Charles Clark leapt up and took the cup from me. “I’ll do it,” he said, indicating that my injured foot and I should stay where we were.

The shampoo bottle incident was on Fat Tuesday, which I celebrated with a pity-party and Ibuprofen. It turns out my toe isn’t broken, but I’m left with a Lent reflection that L’Arche teaches me time and again: Together, sharing in weakness and strength, we go much further than we ever would on our own.

-Bethany Keener came to L’Arche in 2009 as director of communications and development. She lives with her family near the two L’Arche Arlington homes.