The room I am staying at L'Arche, has a wall hanging on it that shows 5 different things: hope, home, healing, love, celebration. Although some people think this hanging is really ugly, I have found it a simple but profound summary of some of the deeply shaping aspects of L'Arche. Most significantly the experience of home, even though it is a temporary one has been important for me.
The parable of the master who put on a feast, in which only the poor and the destitute came as all the others made excuses has been especially important for me this summer. I've began to value at a more deeper spiritual level some of my friendships with 'poor' people. Up until recently such friendships have been mostly with street people that I worked with for the last 4 years in downtown Kitchener. It's interesting to now make friends with a different set of poor people. The experience is very different, and reminds me of the diversity that can exist within the kingdom of God. I find that experience of home has been very significant for me. The core members are saved from destitution because they have a safe and loving (although flawed) place that they can call home. At L'Arche, I've been able to come to a better understanding of how a home can function, especially for those who might not have a a good opportunity to have a place of belonging, a home. Here at Maranatha, visitors often see home experienced most deeply in the core member's rooms. They are covered with photos and other memorabilia that build an atmosphere of love, a place where the core member is reminded of his/her own uniqueness and the loving community that surrounds them. Each room is far from the bland institutional layout of other homes, and is as unique as the core member. In Maranatha, we regularily celebrate things, the anniversary of when the core member came to L'Arche or their birthday are big celebrations. Welcoming guests is another big event, and everone in the house does things to ensure the visitor feels comfortable and welcome. These core members have a deep history in this home with some of them living together for over 20 years. There is a deep rootedness in the home that is cause for fun celebration. This rootedness can have its flaws though, the rountines established over many years, provide familiarity for the members of the house, but can also hinder any growth or autonomy in the space. The cycle of assistants who tend to stay for short periods of time takes its toll for the core members who have to frequently experience the grief of a lost relationship. But despite these, L'Arche provides a home that prevents the deep isolation, social exclusion, and transience, that many of the people I got to know in Kitchener experienced. I feel that the experience of 'home' should be something everyone should have, and even those who think they have home, by coming to L'Arche may come to a deep sense of appreciation for their homes and the people in them.