“I know the way you can get when you have not had a drink of Love. Your face hardens. Your sweet muscles cramp. Children become concerned about a strange look that appears in your eyes, which even begins to worry your own mirror, and nose.”
This is the opening of one of my favorite poems, “I Know the Way You Can Get” by Hafiz, a 14th century Persian poet. It speaks such truth to the experiences many of us have had over the past year. How many of you have been yearning for a “drink of love?”
A few months before the pandemic began, I discerned it was time for me to transition out of my role as a Live-In Assistant with L’Arche Portland. After a short period working in a café and making art, I was graced with the opportunity to return to L’Arche as L’Arche USA’s Digital Communications Manager. As it happened, my first day of the new role coincided with the first day of lockdown in my city due to COVID-19.
As the challenging events of the next several months unfolded, I questioned myself a lot, watching my hands working at my laptop. These hands had spent the past few years lifting arms through t-shirts, folding and unfolding wheelchairs, preparing food, practicing sign language, and holding other hands around a large dinner table. Now I worked behind the scenes building virtual connections, collecting data and supporting initiatives to help spread the L’Arche movement. I knew this work was important, but there were times I wondered: “What am I doing alone at this wobbly IKEA desk while my friends still living in L’Arche are working to keep one another safe from a deadly virus?”
L’Arche was a place where I learned to “drink love.” Sharing moments of prayer, fits of laughter, and silence on the front porch ─ I learned the value of “drinking in” these moments shared in community. No one tells you just how thirsty you will be for them after you leave, and, with an even greater separation due to social distancing amid the pandemic, I found myself needing to re-learn a lot. How and where would I fill my cup? What tools could I use to help fill others’ cups from afar? It was important for me to hold awareness for both where I needed help and where I could offer help in this new reality.
“I know the way you can get, if you have not had a drink from Love’s Hands.”
As the year continued, I saw such strength and endurance in the hands of L’Arche members across the country working in extraordinary conditions to keep one another healthy and hopeful. At the same time, I learned to understand the value of my own hands’ responsibilities in supporting their work. “Love’s Hands” are L’Arche members’ hands: the ones lifting arms through t-shirts, the one’s being lifted, and the ones working at computers.
As this pandemic moves toward a new chapter, many questions are going to be asked, but the greatest of these for all people must be: “What have we learned?” I hope our answer includes the reality of just how interconnected we all are ─ that each of our actions, the works of our hands, has a profound effect on the world around us and beyond. I hope we might take a moment every day to consider our capacity to quench one another’s thirst for Love.