It’s a bright, beautiful day, but I’m not really seeing it.
The world looks bleak. A bombing at the Boston Marathon, a city-wide manhunt, ongoing violence and terrorism the world over … the hate seems very heavy, and the love feather-light.
Part of me wishes I could be a small child again, blessedly unaware of all this. And what is the deepest wish of a child but to be safe, held, home?
Photo Credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography
And that calls a story to mind.
To begin, I should tell you that I co-led the opening of a new L’Arche home in 2010. As such, I met myriad inspectors, and worked together with others to write routines, purchase household items, meet with families, train assistants, and more. I worked long hours, pushing myself to get everything perfect.
So you can imagine my shock when I realized that, on the evening of our first official day, I’d received (and filed) an incorrect prescription for Alvin**, one of the new members. I’d checked and double-checked the medication lists; how could I have missed it?
To be sure, the individual had received the correct dosage, which was a relief … but procedure dictated that I’d have to go through a labyrinthine series of corrective measures to fix the paperwork as soon as possible. To my weary mind, the task seemed insurmountable as Everest.
I sat at the new, polished-wood table, my head in my hands. I forgot the many small victories of the day, the delight on people’s faces, the feeling of a job well done.
Just then, a group of new assistants entered. At the time, they were (relative) strangers. And I felt horribly guilty that they were seeing me discouraged. But when they asked what was wrong, I didn’t have the strength to pretend. I told them the truth.
The group was caring and affirming, yet I saw concern in their eyes. Only Damien** seemed unruffled. He pulled up a chair, and it was such a relief for stressed, worried me to sit next to someone that peaceful. He told me, “It’s going to be all right. I promise.”
He said more than that, but what I remember is not so much his words as the conviction behind them. He believed that it would all work out. He had faith, and he offered it to me.
L’Arche members, all smiles.
It was a turning point. After that, I was able to relax and enjoy the new house, crises and all. But whenever I tried to thank Damien, he would always play it down. He was a little mystified as to what, exactly, he had done for me. And perhaps that’s as it should be.
Everyone has something to offer, but do we ever fully understand the power of the gifts we give one another? We never know what it’s like to be in another person’s place. Moreover, what we have to offer and receive changes moment-by-moment.
One minute, I was the teacher, sharing my knowledge on routine. The next, I was the student, learning from a new assistant how to keep the faith.
It’s been almost three years now, and the ‘new’ home is thriving. More homes are in the works. Last week, I called the house I helped open to wish my friend Alvin a happy birthday. In a week of darkness and destruction, talking to him was a bright spot.
And in his voice I heard a promise fulfilled.
Do you have a ‘keep the faith’ story? Tell me more in the comments!
Fed up with an ‘impossible’ sibling? Tired of a situation that may never change?
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*L’Arche (French for ‘The Ark’) is a faith-based non-profit that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.
**Names have been changed.