A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of accompanying six other members of my community on a trip to Mobile, Alabama for the L'Arche Mobile marathon. Technically, it's the Servis1st Bank First Light Marathon, but all of us in the Central Region of L'Arche USA call it the Mobile Marathon, because it is hosted by L'Arche Mobile and it's a fundraiser for them.
Every year members of the L'Arche communities in the region travel to Mobile to participate in the marathon weekend. The seven of us from L'Arche Heartland were there to run the marathon as a relay team. Since so many people from our region are there, we always have times set aside for us to get together and spend time with each other.
One of these times in particular was the evening after the race, which was the night before most of us would be heading home. We had a party room at a restaurant in Mobile called Felix's. There was eating, because it cannot be denied that we like to eat in L'Arche. A lot of fellowship and hospitality and friendship happens around the table, and L'Arche is really good at all three of those things.
But after we had gotten our fill of steak or fish, cheesecake or key lime pie, and donut holes, and after we had chatted with our neighbors at the table, quite a few of us drifted into the next room where a musician was on stage singing and playing his guitar and harmonica. It did not take long for us to show the rest of the people in that restaurant what we are good at in L'Arche - Celebrating!
There was a small dance floor in front of the stage and it did not take long for it to be filled with assistants and core members, friends and volunteers and community members. There was twirling and spinning, laughing and singing, and even a dip or two. As we were on the little dance floor, enjoying ourselves, I turned to the person next to me and said, "It wouldn't have been a real L'Arche gathering without some dancing!"
That celebration, the joy of being together, is a central part of L'Arche. In his book Community and Growth, Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche, says that "celebration is the specific act of a community as people rejoice and give thanks to the Father for he has bonded them together; he is looking after them and loves them. They are no longer individuals locked up in their own loneliness and independence. They are one body and each of them has their place in the body. Celebration is a cry of joy from all of them convenanted together, for they have been led through the passage of loneliness to love, of discouragement to hope." (pg 314)
There are many things I love about L'Arche, and many reasons why I have chosen to be a part of it. Nothing quite sums it up as well as what happened on that dance floor. Much in this world tries to convince us to be individuals, to look out for ourselves, to worry about getting ahead or being better than other people. But in L'Arche, we have chosen a different way of life. We have chosen to get out there on that dance floor together. Sometimes we bump into each other. Sometimes the dance move we think is going to look amazing ends up leaving a little bit to be desired. Sometimes a toe might get stepped on. But, most of the time, we are happy to be with each other. We have decided that the best way for us to live this life is with one another, spinning and dancing and laughing together.
Our life together, much like our dancing, might cause people to stare. Some of them might be intrigued by what's going on. Some might think that what we are doing is wonderful. Still others might have a hard time understanding why we're doing it. But, regardless, we continue dancing together, showing other people that you can sit at that table by yourself, or you can get up, kick off your shoes, and get your groove on!