When I walked into Ontario House for the first time, I remember feeling an immediate sense of “home.” People were buzzing about on a Saturday morning, finishing breakfast, sharing coffee, and packing lunches for a day at the beach. An assistant’s sister was visiting from out of town. Pictures and painted canvases cluttered the walls in a homey and cozy fashion. I could see myself belonging here, and the community’s enthusiastic welcome felt like a reconnection with old friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile.
Fast forward three years and I find myself living around the corner in Euclid House all by myself. Artwork and photos still hang prominently on the walls – you can feel our history here. Sometimes it’s comforting to embrace. Other times, I want to run from it. Core members have moved into an apartment down the road that better meets their accessibility needs. Assistants have moved out, and we’ve welcomed more who have families and commute each day from their own homes scattered throughout the city. Summertime volunteers who used to excitedly knock on the front door in anticipation of a few months of transformation joined us on Zoom this year. And here, I sit with the question, “What does it mean to create home?”
As I reflect back on what initially helped me experience a sense of home in L’Arche, I realize it had much more to do with individuals and the invitation to relationship than it had to do with the warmth of the sage green paint on the kitchen walls and the coats hanging by the door. I find a sense of home in relationships – in finding belonging and rest and knowing my worth. It is a deep feeling of awareness and rootedness and mutuality which is created at the pace of trust. I found it with Mo in his pranks, his simple delighting, and his gentle and caring manner of asking questions that always seemed to catch me off guard in the best kind of way. I find it with Laura and Debora as we share ice cream on the back porch, letting the carefree and off key (on my part) notes of Peter, Paul and Mary and The Beatles fill the 6+ feet of space between us due to COVID precautions. I find it with Joseph when we bake cookies together and when he reminds me to call my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday.
As individuals, as a society, and as members of L’Arche, we may be struggling right now. We are learning to let go of expectations so as to live fully and boldly with what we have. Spaces hollowed out by individual and collective grief and loss have created room to welcome the unexpected. There is a feeling of grace in accompanying one another at this time. It’s a place of rawness and vulnerability in relationships. It’s messy, but there is something real and holy here, and it’s where I find home.