Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Children learn what they live

To say that childhood experiences shape our lives is, I suppose, stating the obvious. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins observed (in less inclusive times) "The child is father to the man". I have been ruminating on this fact more than usual over the past little while.

Right now there are seven kids being raised in our community of L'Arche. Seven kids, all under six, three of them less than three months old, whose early lives are being lived out in what is unfortunately a very unusual environment. Seven kids who daily encounter wheelchairs, sign language, foreign accents, many shades of skin colour, and grown-ups who need lots of help with lots of things. When my daughter gets home from school (and has her ritual milk and cookies) she trots off next door to visit Amy, Angela, Rod, Haley, and the rest of the folks at Korban. In the mix are two wheelchairs, two people who don't speak, three people who grew up in big institutions for people with disabilities...and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Maggie doesn't see this as anything out of the ordinary. But surely it is!

I wonder how the little kids growing up in this magical, crazy place will turn out? Will they be a part of a societal sea-change, a revolution that will reveal the gifts of people with disabilities and enable them to claim their rightful place in the world? Will they continue to value difference as a part of what makes the world turn in the right direction? Will they take Jesus back from the hands of the fundamentalists and use his words and example to make the world a more compassionate and welcoming place?

Right now Maggie wants to grow up and "live in a L'Arche community". Sounds pretty good to me.


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Anonymous said...

Hi Jenn! My name is Laura Hurst, I found your blog, and have been reading it for the past hour!
I love this post...you wonder how living in L'Arche will impact you children...here is my story!

My parents, Joan and Robin met while working at L'Arche Daybreak in their early 20's, got married and raised us, Emily Laura and Elaine, in L'Arche Daybreak. Although we did not live on the L'Arche property, we spent most of our time there.

I credit L'Arche, and my little sister Elaine, who has Down Syndrome to the women I am today. I would not be the person I am today, have the job I have, or love the way I do with out my early experience of acceptance, friendship, community, and love!

I was to touched when you spoke about how your daughter runs next door to see her friends, the core members! Growing up, my best friends were adults with special needs, and I did not realize it until I was much older that these friends were different! Your daughter will learn the importance of friendship, and what a true friend truly is. And your boys, well they are just the luckiest little guys to be surrounded by so much love and acceptance!! Elaine is the most wonderful loving person I know, and it was because of my parents and L'Arche that she lives such a beautiful, meaningful life.

I have no doubt in my mind your daughter will follow your foot steps, and one day share her gifts with a L'Arche Community. Both my older sister and I have worked at L'Arche in our early 20's. My older sister is now a nurse, and I work with children with Autism in the school board in Ontario. Most of the children that I ran around barefoot with at L'Arche Daybreak, that were also raised in L'Arche, have gone on to live in L'Arche Communities, and most are either teaching or in the medical field! There really should be a book about the children of L'Arche....I cant imagine being raised any other way!

Thank you for sharing your story! You have a gift of writing and I will add this blog to my 'favourites' to follow your journey!
God bless you and your family!


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