On May 2, 2017, L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. gathered at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel to host our 10th annual Heart of L’Arche Breakfast. This reflection was shared as one of the highlights of our breakfast. The theme of the 2017 Heart of L’Arche Breakfast was “L’Arche Impact!”
So, what do you say to a group of friends and strangers gathered to hear about L’Arche; some for the first time? A couple of weeks ago, I found myself trying to sum up in a few words my 39 years of involvement with L’Arche. The occasion was responding to a young woman about to graduate from college who was saying, “I want to do something that will make a difference, not just provide me with money and security.” Wow! A millennial just scored some big points! I responded with, “Do you know about L’Arche?” as my mind raced to think about what I could say off the top of my head that would catch her interest and touch her heart.
“L’Arche is a place,” I told my young friend, “a home, where men and women commit to live together as they open themselves to discover just what difference they actually want to make. It doesn’t take long before those who thought they had the most to offer, find the biggest difference is going to be made in them.”
I have a lot of stories about L’Arche. I’m one of the lucky ones who has had the privilege to watch as the DC L’Arche community was called into being, as the love and sorrow came mingling down, and exists today as a thriving network of communities.
I first spent time in the Ontario Rd. house in 1981. The community was still forming, so Dennis Calderone, who would become the director, lived there and was working to get the house ready. I was a part of the church community who owned the house and while we were waiting for the first residents to arrive, we used the house for things like worship planning and music group practices – and parties, of course. In July of 1981, a young woman who was my roommate died very suddenly. Our church community was stunned and heart broken. I was living in Alexandria and as we gathered to grieve the Ontario house was our shelter. I ended up staying there for two weeks as did others. I still think of my friend, Anne, every time I go there. I often think of how that house was a place of celebration and fun – and when needed, a safe shelter for healing.
Beyond being attractive, comfortable, safe places to live, our L’Arche homes offer tangible ways to be in deep relationship with one another. I told my young friend that whenever I cross the threshold of a L’Arche home, I feel at peace, and an ease in being loved for who I am. That has, for me, been unmatched in other settings. It’s hard to describe, so I love the comfort of meeting someone who knows L’Arche and has had the same experience.
L’Arche will give you the opportunity to stand alongside those for whom decent housing, jobs, education, and perhaps more importantly, relationships with others may not come as easily as they do to you and me.
I don’t know what my friend will decide but I was glad that I had an answer for her. L’Arche has made me different than I was 39 years ago and a lot richer in hope and expectation that home can happen for all of us.