By Claire McGrath
“There’s a BUG in here! A BIG BUG!!!” It’s been a pretty hectic day, and those are not the words I want to hear right now, being that I don’t exactly consider myself a fan of “big bugs.” Tonight was our community night at L’Arche Harbor House—an evening when anyone with any connection to or interest in Harbor House is invited to join the community in celebrating all that is L’Arche. After participating in a program at our community center, which involves plenty of singing, dancing, prayer, and reflection, all are invited to one of the homes for dinner. Our house had hosted about 20 people. It’s a joy to be able to share the gift of L’Arche—but it’s also a lot of preparation, and by the end of the day, I’m pretty tired. Our guests have returned home, and the core members are getting ready for bed; the day is finally winding down, or so I thought, until I hear one of the core members shouting about the alleged “big bug” from the bathroom. “What is this bug DOING in here?!” I move closer to the door, trying to pretending that I am not at all phased by the idea of a large bug in the bathroom. Then the door to the bathroom cracks open, and a hand thrusts out as a voice exclaims, “HERE. A big bug!!!” In his hand, he holds a palm-sized stuffed ladybug that belongs to one of the other core members, and I dissolve into relieved laughter as I take the stuffed animal. That’s enough excitement for one day.
Continue reading On Chaos and Compassion
By Claire McGrath
“Kinship—not serving the other but being one with the other. Jesus was not a man for others; he was one with them,” says Father Greg Boyle in the book Tattoos on the Heart. There are many reasons that I moved to the L’Arche Harbor House in Jacksonville almost two months ago, but when I try to express what exactly it was that led me to L’Arche after graduating from college this past May, I keep coming back to this call to kinship that Father Greg Boyle talks about; God’s invitation to go beyond serving others and seek to be one with others, especially those who feel forgotten or pushed aside. L’Arche is made up of communities all around the world where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. Core members, those with disabilities, and assistants, who provide support to the core members with whatever they may need, share a home and a community where they can celebrate, mourn, laugh, cry, and learn with one another. L’Arche gives assistants the unique chance to go beyond doing things for people with disabilities, and invites them to become one with them, giving them the opportunity to not only to offer their gifts to the core members, but also to receive the many gifts that the core members have to share with them.
When I reflect on the things I’ve been learning at L’Arche so far, one word that I keep returning to is “unconditional.” Life in L’Arche so far has felt countercultural, even rebellious, compared to the way that current society is structured. It seems that the way our culture has been structured is full of conditions. When we give things away, whether it be love, a gift, assistance, advice, or hospitality, it’s often attached to some kind of condition, even if we don’t recognize it or name it. I’ll love you, as long as you love me back. I’ll help you, but you have to show me gratitude. I’ll welcome you, if you prove yourself to be a good guest.
Continue reading Loved for Walking Through the Door