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.