I once was preparing for a “mapping,” which is an annual meeting to review a core member’s goals and wishes. Present at this meeting would be everyone who loves and supports that core member – his or her family, assistants and housemates, etc.
You might think that these mappings would center around things like better hygiene, getting dressed alone, cleaning up one’s room or the like, but that’s not the case at L’Arche.
These meetings are about each core member’s vision for their life – their hopes, dreams, struggles and desires – and how the community can support them in achieving their vision.
As I walked into the meeting, I asked myself a rhetorical question: Does love cure all? Could the love that I see in action in the L’Arche homes I have gone to lift an individual’s depression, help one walk better, cure her speech difficulties?
At this particular mapping, will the love of the group gathered cure all of the challenges this core member in particular was facing?
The answer is not as obvious as you would think. I believe that the love of the L’Arche family can fill the heart of each individual so that the challenges that individual faces are more manageable, less distracting.
As for my rhetorical question – Does love cure all? – of course we all know the answer is no, that the love of L’Arche cannot cure depression, make legs move more easily or take away difficulties with speech; but it can fill up hearts that once were full of feelings of worthlessness and emptiness.
So what makes L’Arche different? My take on it is that every person in a L’Arche home, every core member, every assistant, is treated and nurtured and loved as an individual. Every issue, big or small, is important and an opportunity for growth. That is how L’Arche operates.
I know this to be true because my own involvement at L’Arche has opened my heart to receive this gift of love.
Visit L’Arche and you will be welcomed with joy and love; you will feel the optimism that abounds in each home. There is room for all of us to come in, and when we leave, we are the richer for it. There is joy at the heart of L’Arche and it is contagious.
Mary Ann Carmody, RN, BSN, AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator, has worked with L’Arche core people and assistants on social and sexual issues for many years. She gave the talk, “What love can cure,” at the annual Heart of L’Arche breakfast on May 3, 2011.