This evening was the Academy Awards. Now, I know what you might be thinking - the Academy Awards were in February. Well, that was the award show put on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The award ceremony that was held tonight was put on by L'Arche Heartland and, in my opinion, was much better!
Our version of the Academy Awards is the brainchild of one of our core members. He loves all things Broadway, and is a big fan of Lawrence Welk and Carol Burnett and things of that nature. I'm not sure how long we've been celebrating the Academy Awards, although he announced tonight, on a microphone and broadcast by a karaoke machine, while wearing a suit and tie, that it was the 28th annual L'Arche Academy Awards. But our community has only been around for 28 years, and he hasn't been here the whole time, so I know that number isn't quite accurate. It's been at least four that I have attended, and I've seen awards from years prior. So, anyway, it's been a while.
Preparations for this award ceremony start weeks in advance. He will go to the store to buy party supplies and decorations. He makes a list of things he needs, like sparkling grape juice and a cookie cake. Then, at some point, he sits down and, with the help of an assistant, comes up with awards for members of our community and then decorates them.
Now, in Hollywood's version of the Academy Awards, lots of people get nominated for an award, but only a few people win them. In this way, there are perceived winners and losers. In L'Arche's version, everyone wins. Every current community member gets an award, assistants who are no longer working in our community get an award, even the music therapist who volunteers once a week gets an award. And some of them are for what we might consider pretty ordinary things. For instance, one gentleman in our community got an award because he likes the Power Rangers. Another got an award for his eagerness to wash our vans. One guy got an award for his appreciation of chainsaws. And, while you might think that these are silly and meaningless, they mean a lot to the people who get them. The gentleman who won the award for chainsaws, after receiving his award and returning to his seat, turned in his chair and held it up to me and said, "Look!" He was excited and happy to win an award, to be recognized and honored by his community for being who he is.
And that is very L'Arche. All sorts of people who would be overlooked by Hollywood's version of the awards are seen as special, and unique, and as worthy of being noticed. People who can sometimes struggle to get along in society are honored and seen as important and valuable in L'Arche. Their contributions, no matter how small or meaningless people in the world might deem them, are seen as important and invaluable and worthy of being celebrated.
So, we handed out a lot of awards. And then we drank sparkling grape juice and shared a giant chocolate chip cookie. And there was even a little dancing, and a lot of laughing. And people felt appreciated and honored and known. So I will gladly take our little, messy, simple version of the Academy Awards over Hollywood's big, fancy and flashy version any day.