The other day someone commented to me that perhaps L’Arche is too idealistic. He wondered if we were not trying to be too “utopian.” How can you believe, he said, in things that don’t seem possible, even in the long term? Like true friendship between people with an intellectual disability and those who are not so labelled? Or creating cohesive communities with people from different social, economic, cultural and intellectual backgrounds?
I assured my friend that living in a L’Arche community was not for the faint of heart! There are many challenges and difficulties along the way and we have a deep recognition of pain, both at the human and the social level. However, we believe that it is this recognition of pain that allows us to grow together as human beings.
But my answer to him was that yes, L’Arche is an optimistic vision. And this got me thinking about how important it is to have a dream. Optimism does make a difference! Dreams for a better future activate our thinking, our energy, and our desires and enable us to live into being the dream that we hold. Just like we become what we eat, we also become what we think. Positive or optimistic thinking begets positive and optimistic thinking. Optimism and its expectation of achievement make us work harder, together, to achieve the goals that we hold in common.
L’Arche has a dream. Like many before us, we dream of a society where the “lion and the lamb can lie down beside one another”. We hold an unshakeable conviction of the value, the beauty and the contribution of each and every person. We express this optimism through the nurturing of caring friendships with people who are pushed aside and who have a generally unacknowledged potential to contribute to a shared, better future. This does not mean that we do not live in reality! Indeed, reality constantly pushes us forward—not only the daily reality of cleaning and care-giving but also the daily need to go beyond ourselves to welcome difference and to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in community.
The power of community is found in the mutual support and friendship we experience as we work together towards our dream. Yes, L’Arche has high ideals and holds a utopian vision. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.