The L'Arche Way of Life

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By Season of Giving

Ron Cichon describes in his own words what L'Arche has meant to his family:

The expression "You are what you eat," means that we receive the building blocks for our bodies through the food we eat. My take is "You are who you eat with." When we share a meal with another person and allow that person to impact us, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow and be more human, more accepting of our own frailties and those of others.

In describing my son's group home to anyone, I always start by saying that the assistants and the core members live, eat, pray and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together – blurring the lines between caretakers and care-takees. These simple acts of solidarity, community and love, express the mutuality of respect and dignity that lies at the heart of L'Arche.

Next to how I've witnessed L'Arche assistants express compassion and mutuality with patience and acceptance, my long-practiced tricks to coax cooperation from Noah seem more like clever manipulations of behavior. Successful or not, my tricks would treat Noah as 'other', to be managed. But watching his assistants taught me to make accommodations in my own schedule and plans. I've learned to share my thoughts and feelings with him, especially our mutual grief at the loss of Karen, my wife and Noah's mother. I look forward to the time that we spend together and am constantly in awe of who he is as a person.

During an extended road trip last year, I interviewed assistants from various L'Arche communities across the country. Notably, several assistants with tenure in L'Arche over five years shared a common sentiment – that L'Arche is not just a job that one does. Rather, it is truly a way of life. We are who we eat with.

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