(Note: I wrote this about a week ago but didn't post it at the time because I didn't have internet access in the house. Today, our internet was hooked up and two of the core members who I will be living with moved their stuff into the house. Already our life together is starting to take shape.)
As I write this I am sitting in a house that is virtually empty. The only furniture is a twin sized bed, an end table and a dresser. There is nothing in the dining room or the living room. The three other bedrooms sit wide open and empty. Right now, I’m the only person living in this house. I’ve been here for a little more than a week. I’ve spent my time cleaning, sweeping up mounds of dog hair that was left behind by the previous owners. I’ve been mopping and dusting and putting up shower curtains and installing smoke detectors. I’ve been assembling vacuums and putting together shelves for storage. We’ve been shopping and buying furniture which is set to be delivered in the middle of this week. We are getting ready to open another house here at L’Arche, a house that will become a home for me, and at least three other people, all of whom are living with some kind of developmental disabilities. So, yes, this house is currently pretty empty. But while it might be empty of furniture, it is full of possibility.
I can’t help but stand in the dining room, and envision where the table will be. When I see the table, I see it surrounded by the core members and assistants who will share meals there. I know there will be much laughter and conversation shared over good food. I know there will be times spent together in prayer, with a candle lit to signify the holiness of the occasion. I know there will be house meetings where each one is encouraged to share what is important to them in their life together in this house.
When I turn to the living room, I think of the couch and chairs that will go there, encouraging people to sit and relax and spend time together. It will also be the area where we will host our weekly community prayer nights when it’s our turn. We’ll move the chairs and couch out of the way and put up a few extra tables and more chairs. The other houses will come and join us and we’ll share a meal all together and then some singing and an activity afterward, followed by prayer. I imagine the joy and laughter and communion that will fill the house then, when we are all gathered in this room.
Then I move to the kitchen, and think of all the meals that will be prepared there. I think of all the bowls of cereal that will be poured, all the pancakes that will be made, the lunches that will be packed, the spaghetti that will be boiled, the cakes that will be baked to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. I think of the coffee that will be brewed in the mornings, the dishes that will need to be washed after every meal, the pots and pans and dishes and cups that will fill the cupboards. I look at the fridge and can’t wait to cover it with pictures of people who are important to us, our friends and family, both in and out of L’Arche.
Down the hall are the bedrooms, and as I walk by each one I think of the members of our community who will be in these rooms. I think of the two core members who will be moving here from one of our other houses. I think of our relationships as they are now, and wonder how they will change as we share a home together. I imagine how their energy and wisdom and spirit will shape this house. And then I look at the bedroom that will belong to a new core member that we will be welcoming. I think of the times he’s visited us, and the little bit I’ve gotten to know him, and wonder what it will be like to live with him, to learn how best to help him lead a full and happy life, and to learn American Sign Language so that I can more fully communicate with him. Then I look at the last bedroom on the right-hand side of the hallway, which is mine, the only furnished room in the house at the moment, and I think about what my life will look like in this house. I wonder how I will change and grow, what I will learn, what the core members will teach me, while I call this place my home.
So right now this house might be empty in the material sense. It might not have all of the things that people think of when they envision what a house looks like. But it is brimming with possibility and hope and ideas and promise. And very soon the people will be here to fill that promise with flesh and bones and laughter and noise and joy and love, and that will be what makes it our home.