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Leaning In & Leaning Back

Jessica, Ben, Taylor, and Cindy (left to right) pose together in their L'Arche Portland home.
Below is a reflection originally featured in our Hope Signs: July 2020 newsletter. Jessica Bridges is the Westside Community Coordinator at L’Arche Portland, and her words offer an inside perspective on how both global and personal events are impacting the many members of L’Arche today.

On Easter this year, I woke up early, put out Easter baskets for each Core Member and Assistant, hid eggs, and then stole away to the backyard for a sunrise tele-prayer with my partner.

Normally I hold a live-out L’Arche role, and so, in a typical year, I would have otherwise rolled my eyes at pre-Easter egg hunts, debated whether to attend a pomp-filled Easter service, set up and mingled at L’Arche’s annual Easter potluck, and collapsed at home for an introvert’s post-socializing nap.

While that rhythm is authentic and meaningful, this Easter I was temporarily living in community to provide additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this setting offered me unique clarity. Yes, I will be the Easter bunny, and yes, I will pray quietly in the backyard.

My month living at Neahkahnie House was preceded and followed by the scattered confusion many of us have experienced in this season: Where should I be? What should I do, or not do?

It’s been a season of checking in regularly – with myself, with my community, and with the world. It’s not been super-graceful, but it’s been a dance of discerning when to move toward the frontlines, when to hold emotional space for others, and when to bring a puzzle, buy yeast, or enlist financial support from family and friends.​

This ebb and flow of direct support, of support from afar, of rest, are the lessons L’Arche held for me prior to Covid, and they are lessons it continues to hold. Many in our world are being invited into this ebb and flow, as mutual aid groups have formed and the needs of each day are ever-shifting.

We are invited to patience in times of feeling useless, to re-imagine and discern when and how to show up, and to develop what Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha calls care webs, “a collective responsibility that’s maybe even joyful.” These practices make space for each of us to lean in and lean back when the time is right.

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