Last night, I listened to an exceptional talk by Brene Brown, Ph.D., on wholeheartedness and vulnerability. You can find it here.
It reminded me of a prayer-time at L’Arche in which Cassandra* showed great transparency. I write about it here:
“When Cassandra’s asked the question, “What hurts do you carry? What hurts does L’Arche help to heal?” she replies, after a long pause: “Well. When people I love die. And. Not being able to do things right.” She looks straight back at me. My throat closes with gratitude that this woman has put into words the two great wounds that everyone faces in this life.”
We lose the people we love, to death and distance and time, and we never fully recover from those losses. We don’t get things right the first time, or the fifth time, or the hundredth time.
Even so, we continue to love. We keep trying. As Brene Brown realizes, the alternative to feeling our hurts is…feeling nothing at all.
Cassandra lives in a place where many people come and go. No matter how wonderful the assistants are, no matter how much fun she has sharing her life with them, most of them will leave L’Arche after a year or two. And yet, Cassandra keeps opening her heart. She keeps welcoming new people. She keeps working at her writing and her art.
One night, Aileen, an assistant Cassandra was (and is) close with, was about to leave the L’Arche community. Aileen and Cassandra had accompanied one another, and the depth of feeling between them was evident. We went around the table sharing the things we loved about Aileen, and how we would miss her. When it was Cassandra’s turn, she looked at Aileen with gentleness in her face. Cassandra then said, simply and tenderly, “She’s my little child.”
Due to circumstances outside of her control, Cassandra does not have children. She feels this loss deeply. Yet she has made that unmet desire a force for good. She has not become closed or bitter. In a very real way, she has mothered at L’Arche. She has a child of the spirit, a child of her heart.
I’ll leave you with this, from Dr. Brown’s talk. She shares the original definition of the word “courage.”
“Courage: to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
*Names have been changed.