The below post is by Delaney Wells ’20, a member of the Fall 2018 Washington Semester Program cohort. Please note that some names in the below post have been changed to protect privacy.
I have been able to complement my internship at the Department of Justice in the Disability Rights Section with time at the 6th Street L’Arche home in Arlington, VA where I shared life with the four incredible core members and assistants one to two days per week. From Friday night talent shows to tending the flourishing rosemary in the garden and everything in between, I have seen, felt, and heard love in a way I never thought was possible; there is a magic in L’Arche excuded through hard work and extreme dedication by core members and assistants alike.
Perhaps the most salient lesson I have gleaned through L’Arche is the profound notion of a mutually transformative relationship. This bond that L’Arche boasts is formed through sharing time and life with core members, and can only be experienced by means of a first-hand encounter. I have learned patience, unrelenting kindness, and unmerited grace in each conversation, hug, and quiet moment with core members. Holding John’s hand as he silently cries and prays for his impending surgery in January has granted me the chance to be a witness to genuine empathy. Listening to Laura sing herself to sleep as she got ready for bed provided a feeling of pure joy I cannot express in words. Listening to Patrick’s cope with the recent death of his father has shown the individual nature of grief and the need for dependence on others when healing and processing devastating loss. Hearing him reassure himself under his breath that, “even though I am sad, I will be okay” is an example of bravery through vulnerability I will carry with me forever.
L’Arche’s mission is both necessary and essential in a broken world. L’Arche provides holistic care and compassion through transformative relationships with a foundation in love, the most genuine love, to foster communities that can create greater societal change by being with people on the margins. These are places where vulnerability is recognized and we witness lessons from the broken and marginalized about love, humanity, and the way we should stand withone another. God comes to be with the poor through Disability Theology and ultimately transforms brokenness into gentle humanness. Within L’Arche, liberation comes when people begin to let go of their individuality and independence and recognize the strength that comes from “gentleness, mutuality, weakness, vulnerability, and brokenness”. In this way, those who accompany and share life in L’Arche find themselves as they learn who they are withothers.
These lessons have defined the walls of L’Arche and have shaped who I am and how I value and understand how to be human. I have learned to pour love and empathy into all relationships and now understand partnership among people as the importance of treating one another; all of these lessons only can be gleaned through L’Arche. Without sharing life, my Washington Semester would have felt incomplete. Experiencing L’Arche and the Department of Justice together allowed for discernment of my vocation and recognition of my personal and professional aspirations; creating a place where they can come together to exemplify the Jesuit motto of being “for and with others”.