Charlie Marks, former L’Arche Spokane assistant, recounts a recent memory of running a local ultra-marathon where his family decided to sponsor L’Arche for each mile beyond his challenge threshold.
After graduating from Gonzaga University with a mechanical engineering degree, Charlie Marks chose to be a live-in assistant in L’Arche Spokane from 2017-2018, where he enjoyed the unique experience of being welcomed into intentional community life:
“My parents may have initially been skeptical about my choice to take a gap year to volunteer at L’Arche, but when they came over to have for dinner with the core members, they started to understand. David, one of the core members, loved setting up the table and bringing the tea sets out… every time we had people over for dinner, core members just seemed to bring out their A-game and enjoyed being goofy and fun.”
After a transformative year of living at L’Arche, Charlie moved away to the Tri-Cities area and got married. He now looks back on his time with L’Arche as a year of personal growth where he learned to be responsible for others, growing in patience, understanding and tolerance.
“Being an assistant helped prepare me to become a dad and husband; it gave me a better understanding of people and how to work with different people, how to communicate nonverbally, understanding what makes people tick, even people who don’t communicate with words, which isn’t something I encountered as an engineer … For example, I was learning to communicate nonverbally with people in a variety of ways from doing daily chores to having fun together and hosting others… it really helps with relating to anyone and everyone… growing in patience is a big one, as a partner and a parent… Learning to apologize, and learning to forgive and to receive forgiveness… All these basic things that are really important but easy to forget about as a young, single dude when you can run away from those things.”
Five years later, Charlie signed up for an ultra-marathon with a local running group, joking with his parents that they could pay him $10/ mile. Eventually, Charlie’s dad suggested, “How about every mile after Mile 40, we’ll donate $10 for every mile that you complete to L’Arche…”
What started out as fun banter became serious as the miles ticked on, and Charlie’s sister & fiancé jumped in to donate to L’Arche USA, while Charlie’s parents donated to L’Arche Spokane as they cheered him on to finish the race.
“Toward the end of my time at L’Arche, I realized how many people come and go through the core members’ lives… During my time there, we had three core members who had been there for 40 years… I found it so admirable that core members are still willing to open up and be vulnerable to allow different people come in and to care for them. It gave me the strength to be honest, open, and genuine with the people in my life, and not to be so guarded in the usual way that most of us normally are… [L’Arche] brings out something genuine and authentic in us outsiders who are just living there for a brief period of time, often new to learning to care for others.”
Give inclusion. Give kindness. Give belonging.