At the end of the first day of L’Arche USA’s 2018 National Assembly and Western Regional Gathering, we asked an Assistant (an individual without an intellectual disability) to reflect on her experience thus far. Malia has lived in a L’Arche Spokane community home for four years with her friend Chad, who is a Core Member (someone part of a community with an intellectual disability). She tells us the following:
L’Arche people are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. I know it may sound trite, but it’s true. And nowhere is it more evident than when we are all gathered together like we are today in Tacoma, Washington for the National Assembly and Western Regional Gathering.
Every time we are together, it challenges me to be a better person, because I look around the room and see people who are really good at loving, and listening, and welcoming, and dancing and singing like no one is watching. Among them is my housemate – and friend – Chad, whom I have the privilege of hanging out with for part of the weekend. It was wonderful to see the contagious joy on his face as he greeted old friends (hugs all around) and joined with everyone in song. Even after hundreds of miles of travel, arriving late, adjusting to a new place, waiting in long lines in the cafeteria, and missing a shoe (fortunately, we found it later), Chad still had a smile on his face. It was enough just to be here with his friends. As Chad says, “I like it.”
Tina Bovermann, Executive Director of L’Arche USA, started us off last night with a rousing speech reminding us of who we are, and challenging us to live into our identity. We are a people who welcome others, no matter who they are. We see the outsider and invite them in, making sure no one feels alone. And when Tina spoke, the energy in the room was palpable, and there was a feeling of hope spreading, joy catching, and a pervading sense that we can do anything when we are together. Because we are L’Arche.
And over the last day and a half I have seen this lived out in a thousand tiny ways. When people are tired and worn from traveling, emotions are up and down, and there are minor (or major) worries over forgotten or misplaced items, I have seen people remember our identity and choose to love anyway. Because that’s what makes us L’Arche. We are a people who lift each other up in love.
L’Arche Spokane Assistant & Office Manager