When The Utopia Cracks Open

Lena Woods

Published 3 July 2020

What is L’Arche? My current home, my employer, my community. How do I explain this place? L’Arche is an invitation. The full experience is to receive and accept that invitation wholeheartedly. When you come to L’Arche, you are not just asked to share dinner or to sit and watch a movie or to play a game. You are being asked to show up and offer your presence.

I did not come to L’Arche through a carefully crafted spiritual philosophy. I entered completely blind; I was looking for an occupation that would lift me out of the mundane. I didn’t expect to learn anything about myself. The greatest life lessons come when you least expect them to. When you immerse yourself in a L’Arche community, it is easy to espouse utopia. It is easy to get lost in a hazy, loving fog that few people outside of L’Arche can relate to.

What if I told you that there is a place where you can show up and only be asked to be yourself? What if the people around you took the time to acknowledge and foster your specific talents and gifts for the good of all around you? Would you tell me I’m bananas? When talking about L’Arche, many people stop here. But that would be doing it a great disservice.

I believe that the true magic of L’Arche is when the utopia cracks open ever so slightly. The true magic is when you learn to live with others and yourself completely as you are. It is impossible to be fully invested in a L’Arche community as an assistant or otherwise without being emotionally vulnerable. Your flaws come forth whether you expect them to or not. This vulnerability is one of the pillars of this community. L’Arche is a place where a part of yourself will be left in the foundation – helping to hold it up for future and current members. L’Arche is a place that will travel with you, even as you build new connections elsewhere.