L’Arche Wavecrest’s newest home opened in January 2020, just weeks prior to the start of the current pandemic. The following is an interview held this past October with four members of the home: Liz, Leslie, Sergio, and Caleb. Parker Davis, L’Arche USA’s Digital Communications Manager, conducted the interview while on an outdoor, socially distanced visit to the home. You may listen to an unedited audio recording of the interview at the bottom of this page.
Parker: So you all are founding members of this house?
Caleb: Yes. Leslie was the first one to move in and then Adam.
Liz: And then Sergio, and then I was the last one.
Parker: Were you excited to move in?
Liz: I was a little bit.
Parker: Why do you say, “a little bit?”
Liz: Because I was excited about making new friends, but it was my first time away from home. I have been with my parents for the last 36 years.
Parker: That is a big change.
Liz: Yes, it has been a big change for me.
Parker: Sergio, how did you end up living at Jean’s house?
Sergio: The woman that I was living with, her name was Beth, was looking for a place for me to live in case something happened to her.
Parker: Leslie, were you excited about moving in?
Leslie: Yes, I really wanted to be a part of the L’Arche community because it brings joy, laughter, and a family who truly loves me. The reason why I moved in was because I wanted to be out of my previous home. I got no privacy at all and felt stuck in the middle of gossip. I feel so lucky to be a part of L’Arche.
Parker: How did it feel at the beginning when it was all new?
Liz: It was ok, but it has been up and down for me right now. I haven’t started my day program, and I was looking forward to starting my day program when I came here, but then everything started shutting down [because of the pandemic]. I was kind of sad in the beginning, but then I made friends and called Leslie my house sister. I’ve made good relationships with Caleb, Mary, Jordan, and Sergio. And we all laugh and have a good time… So we have a fun time joking around and it’s gotten a lot better, but it’s still up and down because we all still want to go to work and stuff.
Parker: Of course. I am sure it probably looks very different than what you expected. But it sounds like you feel much more comfortable now than at the beginning?
Liz: Yeah I still miss my parents, and I will call them to let them know what’s happening and stay in contact with them.
Parker: Caleb, what was it like for you at the beginning? You had L’Arche itself as a model, but still you all were building this home together from the start. I am curious to know how that felt.
Caleb: It was definitely not what I expected. What I knew was Abraham house, and that house has been around for around 16 years. It is very established, and they all have their routines. So I was just expecting to jump in and have that very smooth L’Arche experience where everyone gets along, but like Liz said, and especially with the pandemic, community isn’t as simple as that. Sometimes we don’t get along with each other or we have to figure out something like bathroom schedules.
Parker: Yeah there are some things that you can’t really plan for, and that you have to learn along the way… Leslie, what has it been like for you? What was it like at the beginning and how are you feeling now?
Leslie: Well I just need my own personal space. I like having my own room. I used to live in a group home, and I do miss them, but this place is breathtaking and heartwarming. I feel like I have a connection with Caleb, Mary, Jordan, and Jack.
Parker: It sounds like personal space is important to you. Is that something that has been important to all of you as you have spent a lot of time together?
Liz: Yes, because sometimes you might have to share rooms, but here you get open space.
Sergio: I still miss the place where I was living before. Where I was I living before I knew how to get around and where places were. I could walk by myself.
Parker: This place is pretty new. Are you able to stay in contact with you friends from before?
Sergio: Yeah, I call my friends and family. I have their phone numbers and I text them, call them, or facetime them.
Parker: So it sounds like personal space is important as well as staying connected to friends and family. Is there anything else that you have found to be important that you have learned while living in L’Arche? Say you welcomed someone new into the home, what would you say to them?
Liz: That you would like it, but there will be ups and downs to it. But you will enjoy it and get to make friends soon.
Parker: I hope so. Does anyone else have any advice they would give to someone new?
Caleb: One thing that I hear so often around our community is that just living with other people is hard. It doesn’t matter who it is that you are living with because we all have our own ways of doing things. Sometimes being willing to let other people be who they are might get in the way of doing what you want. So I guess the biggest thing that I would say is be open. Earlier today I was talking with other assistants, and we were talking about being gentle with other people and being gentle with ourselves. I feel like that’s relatable advice to this. Other people do things differently, and we have to be gentle and understanding with how people want to do things. And also be gentle and understanding with yourself; sometimes it is hard when other people want to do things differently than how you want to do them. And it’s ok that it’s hard, but also if you need to, allow yourself to do what you need to do. Speak up for yourself. Leslie is good with self-advocacy.
*Group laughs in agreement.*
Parker: So you’ve also talked about laughing together and having fun and how that has been an important way to build community. What do you do when things are not going well? Hove you all figured out some ways to get through tough times together?
Liz: Sometimes I will go to my room if I need to cool off, or maybe talk to one of the assistants about it.
Parker: Leslie, what about you?
Leslie: I do meditation because that helps to calm down your nerves, stop thinking a lot about it, and stay calm.
Liz: We have done…
Liz: …family house meditations. One time we went out in the garage and Mary did a meditation on her computer. Or sometimes we will do yoga with Mary.
Sergio: But that’s not me.
Parker: What do you do, Sergio?
Sergio: I will play video games… or play corn hole.
Liz: Or joke around. Sergio likes to joke around a lot.
Parker: Well I guess the last question I have is simple, but more broad. You can answer however you want. What does the word “home” mean to you?
Liz: I think of family, friends, and that we have a big community.
Sergio: I think of having a break off from work and having a place where you can relax.
Leslie: I have to agree with Liz on that one. It is all about family and friends, and being able to travel and see the world.
Parker: And having a place to come back to maybe?
Caleb: When I think of home, the first thing that came to me was what I am familiar with. But as I was thinking about it: the word “family” is in that word too. My home feels like the home that I grew up in… that is where my family lived and that is what I was familiar with most of my life. But now this is my home and it is what I am choosing to make familiar, which is also like choosing to make my family.
Liz: Kind of like making a second family?
Parker: Well does anyone else have anything they would like to say?
Caleb: Maybe one thing that I would add, because Mary is not here, and it is something that she has said to me a lot. Cathy was a core member at Abraham House, and she passed away earlier this year. And Mary has told me many times that when Cathy was in the hospital, Mary went to visit her. One time she asked Cathy, “What advice do you have for me as I am going to open up this new L’Arche home?” And Cathy told Mary, “Remember we are a spiritual family.”
Caleb: So I know that Mary has said this a lot, and that has been something that has been in her mind and in the ways that she has lead our house. So I feel like that should be said.
Liz: Yeah we are a spiritual family, and it’s ok if you don’t believe in God. You can learn it from other people. You get to learn about different religions in L’Arche too.
Parker: Spiritual connections are really deep.
Liz: Yeah it is kind of interesting.
Leslie: Yes. And my personal favorite is the homecooked meals.
Liz: I like the homecooked meals too.
Parker: Awesome. Well thank you all so much for sharing. It is has been really cool to hear about how it has been going, and I am so excited all of you are here with L’Arche.
Audio of full interview below: