As a child I recall having a holy card with the Scripture quote,
“Let the little children come to Me; for such is the kingdom of God.”
I was a child myself and I am not sure how I understood the passage, but it sounded good to me.
Later when I was a parent experiencing my two tykes leading me into a world of wonder, magic, and mystery, I thought of the Scripture passage again. How little ones lead us into the wonder and mystery of God.
My two tykes grew up to become young men, and the Scripture passage was one I had put aside.
Until recently. I am perhaps one of many Americans who is overwhelmed with the meanness and hatred that keeps bubbling up day after day in our communities.
In searching and struggling for some hope, some kindness, I have found it in the L’Arche Community living in my locale.
L’Arche Communities are integrated communities of adult women and men with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. You can find L’Arche Communities in nearly 40 countries throughout the world. St. Louis is blest to have three L’Arche homes in the area, two in Maplewood and one in Webster Groves. The names of the homes are Sunrise House, Joyful House, and Saint James House. There are up to four adult Core Members per house – adults living with an intellectual disability and often physical limitations, as well – along with live-in caregivers, called Assistants.
L’Arche recently purchased a new property in Brentwood with plans to expand their mission. They want to grow and serve more people in our region by offering a day program and family support services, as well as one day opening another residential home where older Core Members can age in place. They will use a large community room in the new building to hold inclusive events and celebrations open to friends and neighbors.
In a society valuing self-sufficiency and competition, the L’Arche model is countercultural. L’Arche promotes the recognition that everyone – those who are independent as well as those who are dependent – are all interdependent. The L’Arche Core Members are lifted up as full citizens with unique gifts to share.
The Core Members do not have post-graduate degrees or hold impressive jobs with big paychecks. Yet each one is a leader at the point of his or her gifts – they are teachers of kindness, acceptance, celebration of diversity, and hospitality as they welcome others with childlike hearts. And matching their kindness and love are the Assistant team members who share life with them in community. Core Members and team members live as equals. All help to prepare meals and gather together at the table as family. All contribute to the care of their homes.
Core Members and Assistants open their homes to welcome visitors, especially “do-gooders” like me. When I first arrived, I thought I would be the one helping them when the reality is that they do so much more for me than I can do for them. The L’Arche mission is one of welcome, striving to create a world where everyone belongs. This must go beyond the homes so that the vision can spread in St. Louis, whether by sharing it with visitors like myself or by modeling relationships of respect and mutuality while at the coffee shop on the corner.
L’Arche Communities witness to me about what’s essential in life: being cared about; returning care to others; finding a place of true belonging; and being hope-filled, joy-filled people.
The L’Arche homes remind me that there are places, quietly tucked away in our residential neighborhoods, where people treat each other with kindness, love, and equality.
At L’Arche, hate is not an option.
“For such is the Kingdom of God.”
For more information about L’Arche, go to www.larchestlouis.org or call 314-395-5851. You can also learn more at this year’s Breakfast with Friends event on Friday, April 29 – start your morning with an inspiring message and a glimpse at life in the homes. Visit larchestlouis.org/breakfast to learn more!