Jean is the Director of Development and Communications for L’Arche Clinton. She wrote this piece for L’Arche USA’s newsletter, Hope Signs.
One definition of awakening is an act or moment of becoming suddenly aware of something. Although I cannot put my finger on the exact moment a spiritual awakening happened in me, I can tell you it was shortly after my coming to work at L’Arche Clinton in March of 2016.
Now I’m not talking about realization of my faith in God or my beliefs in the teachings of the Catholic Church, I’m talking about the feeling of spiritual awareness of those around you and the readiness to travel towards a common good with them.
When I came to L’Arche, I was 7 months post being fired from a job I had held for 26 years and hoped to retire from. This was a critical blow to my mindset and threw me into a tailspin as to what the future held for me. I realized on my second day, when I was given Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Spirituality of Fundraising,” that my job and my life were not going to be the same.
One of the first things I learned in L’Arche is to look at others appreciating the gifts God gave them not the gifts we want them to have. This applies to all people, not just to those with intellectual disabilities. One core member, Mike, often says to others “I know you; you are beautiful!” His gift is to gently remind us of our self-worth. His kind words always lift one’s spirits and help them realize that they are beautiful.
Watching core members care for one another has been impactful. One member telling another to make sure they zip their coat as they go outside. (Come on, it’s January in Iowa. Brrrr!) Another lifting his friend up in prayer after hearing they weren’t feeling well. This is genuine unconditional love with a generous portion of forgiveness thrown in.
Sometimes we “L’Arche folk” don’t realize how unique our community is and sometimes we let life complicate our views of our spirituality. L’Arche reminds me to keep it simple. When passing the candle and sharing our prayers and blessings, we should learn from core member Dan who prays, “Dear God, Mom and Dad are okay. Amen.”
In one of my favorite children’s books “Stone Soup” by James Clavell, no one has anything to offer a traveler, new to town, something to eat. So, he takes a large pot of water and puts it on the fire exclaiming, “That’s okay, I’ll just make stone soup.” As the story goes, one by one the villagers bring ingredients from their homes in hope of getting to taste the traveler’s soup. By the end, he has a delicious pot of soup to share with all those who didn’t want to share with him because he was different!
Follow the L’Arche communities lead and make your Stone Soup out of those around you. Learn from one another. Your spirituality often hides in your heart. Let your actions free your heart and tell the true story of your spirituality.