Will you be our neighbor?

A reflection by Mic Altena, Executive Director & Community Leader

One of the rhythms in our community is the hosting of a monthly community night. It’s an evening when all of the L’Arche members come together and invite friends and guests to an experience of L’Arche. It’s always been a great way of showing what we’re doing in the community for new friends while also creating a beautiful space of reflection for old friends.

 John and Rose (neighbors of Peace House) with Evangeline and Molly at the 2018 Heart of L’Arche Benefit and Auction

John and Rose (neighbors of Peace House) with Evangeline and Molly at the 2018 Heart of L’Arche Benefit and Auction

It’s been incredible to see the way that this evening has cultivated such a rich gathering of people from so many different backgrounds. We consistently welcome new friends every month, so much so that we realized a few years ago that we’d outgrown our living room and would need to meet somewhere larger to accommodate everyone well. We also started using a consistent model for our time together then, centered on a specific theme each month.

This month we invited our Peace House neighbor Rose to share her experience of getting to know Jean, Mike, Noah, Elisha, and the assistants at Peace House. We invited her because we wanted to share what a gift it’s been to be her neighbor. From the first day that we moved into Peace House four and half years ago, she and her husband John have shared their generosity, compassion, humor, and best of all, friendship, with us. They’ve become familiar faces around our dinner table and at our community gatherings. They’ve welcomed us into their home for movies, donut days, Christmas decorating, and even for a group harmonica lesson (harmonicas included!). And they’ve lent us a hand when we’ve needed help around the house or in town. It’s exactly the kind of relationship we had hoped for when we decided to move into the block.

Sitting around the circle at Community Night listening to Rose share her experience, what I heard was that the relationship she had with us was exactly what she had hoped for herself as well. She described, with Peace House core member Jean spontaneously at her side, the profound impact that our community members were having in her life. I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement in hearing her describe memory after memory with us–an excitement in seeing our mission in action of sharing the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities by creating spaces where the world can know and be enriched by people who are different from them. It is a joy to be together, and a joy to see how L’Arche is cultivating that. Thank you for helping us to nurture spaces like these.

Susan Zhu