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Inspiring Sensitivity and a Zest for Life: Aunt Heather’s tribute to nephew Matt

Matt smiles while holding up a crab
Heather, a donor from Texas, gives to L’Arche in honor of her nephew in Florida, Matt, who inspires a sensitivity and zest for life.

When she heard about L’Arche through Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast episode, “The Wisdom of Tenderness,” Heather Reck could not stop thinking about her 21-year-old nephew, Matthew.  

“That conversation sparked a curiosity about the role of disabled people not just in my life, but in everyone’s life,” Heather said.  

As she processed what she heard, Heather was inspired to pick a single nonprofit her family could support that aimed to make a better world for people like Matt. 

“L’Arche was the one,” Heather said.  

Matt has sensory processing disorder, autism, and some speech disabilities, all of which has made it hard for him to find his place in the world.  It has been especially challenging for Matt to embarked on job-hunting as a young adult.

Heather explained that Matt has a tendency to want to be very physically close to others in surprising ways.

“He sometimes hops onto other people’s shopping carts or repeats conversations about things he likes with this intense passion,” Heather said. “If you get on the topic of fishing or crabbing, Matt will just go on about his crab pots.”

“In the past, I may have worried about whether people felt weird about Matt being in their space, and I wanted to rein him in, but now I just see Matt’s behavior as bringing us all a bit closer,” Heather said, acknowledging how her perceptions have changed and how she has gained a new level of acceptance and appreciation for Matt’s way of being.  

“Matt creates a sense of joy, friendship, and intimacy through his desire for physical proximity and these funny ways of jumping in random strangers’ shopping carts, breaking down boundaries.”  

Heather notes that Matt has most recently stepped confidently into his new role as an uncle to his brother’s baby Olivia, and has been “very tender, present, & attentive.”  

“People tend to get numb to the intensity and passion in life that Matt inspires,” Heather said. “Matt’s spirit feels a lot more emotionally steady. He’s somehow more able to roll with the punches and doesn’t project a lot of worry and weirdness onto others.  Matt seems to carry less judgment and baggage, and doesn’t seem to take things personally which is such an important life skill to have to maintain sanity!”   

The L’Arche spirit of seeing the gifts of people living with disabilities has inspired Heather to support the movement as well as look deeper for the gifts of disabled persons, finding herself more able to be patient, present, curious about others. 

“I’m grateful for how Matt teaches us to treat people a bit better,” Heather said. “I’ve noticed how Matt has been a positive influence in my son’s life in terms of showing him how to be more inclusive and sensitive towards others.” 

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