Two weeks ago, with a little bit of confetti and a whole lot of rain, we gathered to celebrate and mark the beginning of construction on our 4th home in Oak Park. Surrounded by family, friends and new neighbors, we huddled under a tent, as it poured down rain, singing “It’s you, it’s me, it’s us, it’s God, it’s love, that builds community.” It was a joyous moment to be welcomed so well into our new neighborhood. To put a cherry on top of it all, earlier that day we received a generous donation that led to us reaching our goal of $2 million dollars.
From what I hear, building a home is no small task. From what I have observed the construction of our 4th home has been nothing short of a true labor of love. Beginning with noticing the changing needs of our community and a desire to provide a safe and accessible home throughout every stage of life, to opting for wider doorways and ground level entry, this home is designed to be a place of true belonging.
I was recently reading, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters Most In The End, by Dr. Atul Gawande. In the book Dr. Gawande looks at how our society has responded to aging and the process of dying. In a chapter on dependence a particular paragraph on displacement stuck out to me. Gawande writes,
“HOW DID WE wind up in a world where the only choices for the very old seem to be either going down with the volcano or yielding all control over our lives? To understand what happened, you have to trace the story of how we replaced the poorhouse with the kinds of places we have today and it turns out to be a medical story. Our old age homes didn’t develop out of a desire to give the frail elderly better lives than they’d had in those dismal places. We didn’t look around and say to ourselves, “You know, there’s this phase of people’s lives in which they can’t really cope on their own, and we ought to find a way to make it manageable.” No, instead we said, “This looks like a medical problem. Let’s put these people in the hospital. Maybe the doctor will know.””
When reading, I was instantly reminded of our 4th home. We’ve seen the aging process of our Core Members and have chosen to respond in a way that accommodates them and includes them in every season of life. Unlike what is described above, we saw the needs of our elderly and desired to give them a better alternative.
The word L’Arche is the French word for “ark,” referencing the story of Noah’s Ark. In the story, animals and a family all climb aboard a giant boat in search of refuge from the rain. It seems fitting that as we commemorated the construction of our 4th home, a place designed to offer lifelong housing and belonging, we all crammed under a tent for safety as the rain poured from the sky.