Do You Risk Reaching Out?

Have you ever received an invitation that made your heart say YES before your mind could even catch up? Ever had such a strong gut feeling that you needed to be at this exact place, doing this exact thing?

That’s how I felt when I was asked to give the keynote speech at this year’s Heart of L’Arche Fundraising Breakfast in Arlington, Virginia on April 25, 2018.

Titled, “Risk Reaching Out,” this talk was part of a program that helped raise over $135,000 to support the L’Arche Greater Washington DC community.

L’Arche is a worldwide nonprofit that creates homes where people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities share life together.

(I served in various roles there for five years, and it’s where my husband Jonathan and I met. The people there are family, and they are with me wherever I go.)

Click here to watch the keynote talk on YouTube, or press play below. I also include the approximate text of the talk, so you can read along.

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For the Ones Who Make Us Smile as the Plane Goes Down

To this day, I’m not sure how close that plane was to crashing. Suffice to say, I certainly believed we weren’t going to make it … but an unsung hero helped me to stay calm.

I’m no stranger to flying; in the past 6 weeks alone, I’ve boarded 11 flights for speaking engagements. Ordinary turbulence is no big deal. Yet I’ve never experienced anything like what happened on that flight.

I was 15, flying home from Italy with my parents, brother, and best friends. We’d traveled abroad for a church gathering, and after a week of eating gelato and saying Ciao, bella, we were (somewhat reluctantly) heading back to the States.

Everything was normal until it wasn’t. The plane just … dropped. It felt how I imagined the Tower of Terror would feel if I’d had the nerve to go on it.

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One Question To Ask When the Going Gets Tough

On my first day of kindergarten, my mom gave me some advice.

She told me what her mother told her on the first day of school: when you walk through the doors, don’t worry about making friends. Just focus on finding the girl who looks even more upset about all this than you do. Go over to her and say hello. Smile. Then, you’ll have a friend.

My five-year-old-self was incredulous. Could it be that simple? With a little prompting, I gave it a shot. I walked up to a weeping girl and said, “Hi, I’m Caroline. What’s your name?”

With that, I made my first school friend. It was a serendipitous choice, since she was (is) an excellent visual artist. Back then, I could barely cut in a straight line — OK, that’s still true! — so she’d help me with arts and crafts. She didn’t like to write, so I’d help her with compositions. We saw each other through.

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