Love the Questions

Mat Whalen

Published 8 June 2020

If you asked me, “Who is L’Arche?”, I would share story after story of the core members and assistants. I would tell you about a meal around the dinner table (ask Friendship House about the boiled meatballs). I would tell you of a time when a core member asked me a brutally honest question that I didn’t have the answer to. I would tell you about the welcome celebrations and goodbye send-offs for assistants. I would offer you a glimpse into the vivid, beautiful and diverse lives that create community life in Chicago.

If you asked me, “What is L’Arche?”, I would likely give you some version of our mission and identity statement. L’Arche Chicago is a community where adults with intellectual disabilities live together with staff members in our homes, as family where they share faith and friendship. I would share with you the number of homes we have, the number of people we care for, what area of the city we are located in. I would give you content and data. I would not likely provide nuance, and I would not likely share stories.

In the past few months most of what we know has been called into question; that is why it is important we reflect on the questions we ask and the answers we receive. Our daily routines, jobs, and activities have been disrupted, yet we see countless stories of core members and assistants that offer us answers to the question, “Who is L’Arche?”

In this time of deep questioning for our community, city and world I am reminded of a quote by Rainier Maria Rhilke that is embodied in our community every day. I offer this excerpt from his work as a reflection: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like books that are written in a very foreign tongue… Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”