The Spirit of L’Arche and Elbert’s Gifts

Ashley Collins

Published 27 April 2016

The following #SpiritOfLArche story by Peg O’Brien was taken from the Fall 2008 Two By Two, our publication that we send out twice a year to update everyone on our community. We interviewed people that worked with Elbert to see what gifts they saw in him.

“I love my job.” Elbert Lott beams when he talks about his work as the janitorial assistant. For more than thirty years, Elbert has attended and worked at Ezperanza, a school and social service agency serving those with special needs with educational, supportive employment and residential programs. When you see Elbert on the job, what’s most obvious and impressive is how much he is trusted, respected and loved. You can tell first from the two huge batches of keys he always wears. Elbert is in charge of opening the school and the various buildings first thing and locking up at day’s end. In between he cleans floors, moves furniture, changes garbage bags and vacuums offices.

“Elbert very much belongs here” says his co-worker Sally Scheib, Head of Social Work “He is so faithful, always busy, but never in a hurry. He is a very important person to have here, because he is so patient with everybody, the students and staff. That’s an important gift in a place where there are often storms and flare-ups.”

Co-worker Florence Lange , Director of Client and Family Support, agrees. “Elbert is a fixture here, He is so even tempered and has a calming effect on every-one. He loves to visit people as he goes about his work. Everyone likes him.” she says. The feeling is mutual. “I love the peoples” Elbert nods, when asked what he likes best about the job he has held since being a student himself at Esperanza. “I enjoy everybody at my job, the kids, the teachers”

He is so faithful, always busy, but never in a hurry. He is a very important person to have here, because he is so patient with everybody, the students and staff.

“The staff people are nice. I do my work, don’t bother them. I say ‘hi’ to them.” Elbert continues,  “I get paid. Sometimes I get a bonus at  or a raise” As evidence of what Sally calls his gentle, calming presence, Elbert made a point of teaching as an on-the-spot mentor himself. He taught one of the kids how to change the garbage bag in the waste can in the hope that he’d have a job skill for potential employment. He also lovingly consoled Sally when her husband died suddenly.

“Elbert has had much suffering in his life” she says as an appreciative friend. Despite a long commute on the train and bus to get to Grand and Paulina, Elbert is always happy to go to work.

When he lived with Viola, his sister, in Markham and literally had to commute for hours, he had no thought of leaving Esperanza and his responsibilities. “I found that very impressive.” says Florence Lange.

When asked, “What are you proud of at work?” Elbert responded “I am proud of being Angel’s friend.” “What about all those keys Elbert? Are they an important symbol for you?” He shrugged that off. They are routine. “What do you take from L’Arche to your work at school? “Peace” Then he eloquently gestured, with a gentle sweep of the hand from his heart.

You can be a part of the impact that L'Arche is having on the lives of core members by joining us in the Spirit of L'Arche!

Here’s how you can be a part of the Spirit of L’Arche

  1. Join the L’Arche Chicago Impact Society, a dedicated community of monthly donors that ensure the health of the community for core members and assistants.
  2. Sponsor or Register for the Golf Classic where you can golf, network, and make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
  3. Attend the Spirit of L’Arche Awards Dinner where we celebrate and honor the friends of the community that have demonstrated what it means to live out the Spirit of L’Arche.
  4. Thank your friends for their gifts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with #SpiritOfLarche and