Empowering to Make a Difference is the theme of this Assembly. Empowering means to increase our influence, to promote our capacity to self-actualize. Empowering means to take responsibility for the beautiful simplicity, the enormous potential, the persistent complexity, the foundational tensions, the tangible value of L’Arche’s mission.
How do we do that? How can we actualize our mission in the 21st century here in the United States? Or, to turn this around into a much more imperative question: what does the American society expect of L’Arche today?
If we were to go out into this country, on a listening tour, to visit the margins of this society and within those margins those with an intellectual disability, what would we discover about L’Arche’s purpose in the U.S. today? If we listened to those who feel left out, left behind, stuck in their trenches, unable to find the bridge that leads them to “the Other”, not belonging, not included, divided, what would we learn? If we listened to the activists, the drivers, movers and shakers, those who are on the job, who are awake, who are woke: what would we discover?
If we listened to folks with intellectual disabilities in El Paso and their families, all of whom have made it across the border into a life of insecurity and unrest. If we spent time with men and women with disabilities in Appalachia, those whom JD Vance calls hillbillies. If we listened to those whom we are not hearing today, how would we envision the L’Arche of tomorrow?
If I were to drive five or maybe 10 miles South from where I live and where L’Arche Atlanta is: what would the African-American community there tell me about their sons, daughters and brothers who live life with a disability? About their ideas for a more humane society
If we were not only to listen to our people in Adams Morgan and Arlington, in Maplewood and Oak Park, in Haverhill and Capitol Hill, if we were not only listening to those who have read Henri Nouwen or Jean Vanier, who have known a L’Arche alumni, who have a son or a daughter with a disability, but to the 330 million people who live in this country – not because we have to be something for all or offer an answer for everybody – but because L’Arche deserves to be part of this nation’s quilt, woven into the fabric of the United States, a maverick, yes, but a maverick who belongs – well, if we did that, what would we learn about L’Arche’s future in the U.S.?
My question is: how would L’Arche in the U.S. look like if we listened to the voices that we cannot hear today? What difference would we make?
For: we are empowered to make a difference. Maybe a significant difference, because L’Arche is not just a non-profit with a mission. There is faith in L’Arche. There is interiority in L’Arche. There is introspection in L’Arche. There is celebration in L’Arche. There is longevity in L’Arche. There is authenticity in L’Arche. There is life in L’Arche. There is hope in L’Arche. And L’Arche is hope.