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It is almost inconceivable that one four-letter word could have such power to change my life. For the past eight months, I have had the privilege of living in L’Arche, being part of a community that emphasises the power of ‘with’. I get to share life with people whose abilities differ from mine, and, as we walk with each other, our gifts are discovered.

I could not find the words to aptly describe this reality, so I borrowed some from our community leader, Carl MacMillan:

“At the heart of the mission of L’Arche is the belief that each person has unique sacred value, that people with intellectual disabilities have gifts that can build a more compassionate society, and that the way we live our relationships with each other holds the power to transform us, and to change the world.”

All this is possible because of the difference between doing for and doing with. When we reduce our interactions with others to what we do for them, there is this crushing weight placed on our souls. We so easily lose the benefit of mutually-transforming relationships. When we take the time to focus on the ‘with’, we see not just the people around us, but we see ourselves. We are finally able to connect with each other at the place at which we are all the same–the point of our humanity.

In L’Arche, people with intellectual disabilities are not ‘them’, or patients, or clients, or any random label you can think of. People with intellectual disabilities are core members, the heart and soul of our homes. Our core members possess many abilities, and are full of gifts and light. Above all, they are teachers and friends. It is not uncommon to find oneself called out of a perceived reality and into that of the beauty of the human spirit, the beauty inside each of us, regardless of our differences.

This is what living in L’Arche has done to and for me. I find myself growing in my ability to connect with people as people, and I receive daily lessons in walking with those around me, sharing the highs and lows of their lives. I am learning to embrace my weaknesses, to not run from my vulnerability. My soul is being stretched, but it is a discomfort I welcome, because this is what I need.

I fully believe in the mission of L’Arche, and that is why I am about to do something I have never done before. I am most uncomfortable asking for financial support, but my community, L’Arche Daybreak, is having a fundraising walk. The Walk WITH Hope makes it possible for us to continue establishing and living the mission and vision of L’Arche, and to share that with the rest of the world.

Please consider donating by visiting my personal sponsorship page. I wouldn’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t do, so I have already made a donation. This is a cause I wholeheartedly support, and I ask you to do the same. If you would be so kind as to share the link with your friends and family, I would be most grateful.

Even if you are not in a position to donate, please take the time to read up on L’Arche (Google is your friend), and see if you can carry that spirit of honouring each person’s dignity into all areas of your life. Thank you again, both for your time and your generosity.

Image source: L’Arche Canada’s WITH Campaign (discoverwith.ca)

In the end, the most important thing is not to do things for people…but to enter into relationship with them, to be with them and help them find confidence in themselves and discover their own gifts.

– Jean Vanier (founder of L’Arche), Community And Growth