You will love meeting Jessica Vorstermans. She became a part of L’Arche the day she was born (as you will read). She is currently a PhD Candidate in Critical Disability Studies at York University and has a deep interest in Latin America. She cares deeply about many things.
|Jean and Jessica|
I opened my Twitter today and saw this tweet from the counter-culture magazine Adbusters:
''Hey writers: Adbusters is looking for intimate stories about life inside a commune or utopian experiment. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org''
I stopped and began to envision the piece I could write! I am what we call a 'L'Arche kid' - a child that has grown up in a L'Arche community because my parents were fully engaged with L’Arche. I was once in a gathering with Jean Vanier. We went around the room introducing ourselves and I said that I have been in L'Arche since the beginning of my life; Jean introduced himself and said that he has been in L'Arche since the beginning of L'Arche's life!
I have not known my life without L'Arche and cannot picture living without it going forward.
But a utopian experiment? A commune? In the 1970s and 1980s some might have said so. My family lived in a L'Arche home with core members until I was 7. As our family grew we moved into a home of our own, but were still active members of the community.
My childhood was characterized by vibrant community celebrations, a large network of supportive friends, and hayrides through the farm fields. But it also included a strong feeling that what we were living in L'Arche was definitely counter-cultural - not 'the norm' - and something that my friends in school would not understand or accept.
When many people look at L'Arche their first reaction, understandably, is often praise for the positive impact it has had on the lives of thousands of people with intellectual disabilities. And this is important. However, L'Arche has had, and continues to have, profound impacts on the lives of the thousands of individuals without disabilities and families who have also called L'Arche their home. At the very heart of L'Arche is a profound mutuality that calls people together.
My life has been shaped by L'Arche; it has influenced my career path, my relationships, and my personal growth. I have a deep sense that my humanity is bound up in the humanity of my brothers and sisters with whom I share this beautiful, but broken, planet.
While characterizing L’Arche as a commune or utopian experiment might be questionable, my life in L’Arche has been filled with intimate stories of lives touched, changed, and transformed by the relationships lived in this community.
Growing up in L'Arche has taught me, above all, that mutual, interdependent relationships are not weak or unnatural but in fact are at the heart of life.
I need you, and you need me. Together we can grow.
But only together.