Monday, July 27, 2015

Lessons in relationship

The past month or two here at L'Arche Heartland has been full of transition. Our Community Leader, who had served in that capacity for 17 years, has moved on to pursue other adventures. One of our Community Coordinators was selected to move up and fill that role, so that meant that his position was open and, after a search process, we welcomed back a much loved former assistant to fill it. We've also had a handful of assistants leave or announce that they are leaving soon, and we've welcomed a couple new ones. There have been a lot of hellos and goodbyes recently.

One thing I have learned about life in community is that this is a pretty consistent reality. People are always coming to our community. Some stay for a long time, some for a while, and some are just here for what seems like too brief of a moment.  Some of the assistants I've worked with have become good friends, we make time to see each other and spend time together. Some have even remained good friends once they have left the community, while others have moved on to become Facebook acquaintances, or characters in fun stories I share over coffee.

But through all of this transition, there is a steadfast presence, a presence that has been here and will most likely continue to be here even as assistants come and go. That is the presence of the core members. They have been here for the assistants that have spent a couple years in this place, they have lived with the assistants who were here for too short of a time, and they have kept on with the assistants who probably stayed longer than they ought. They have welcomed new people into their lives and then celebrated them as their journeys took them elsewhere. They have sat at the table as countless pairs of hands have prepared them meals or administered their medications. They have continued to journey alongside all sorts of people for however long their pathways have coincided.

It would be easy for them to become worn-out by this, to realize that the assistants who come in the front door will most likely exit at some point. They could realize that the people who they have grown to trust and love as housemates and friends will probably move on to other homes and people. They could allow this to affect how they interact with people, to harden their hearts or create a tough exterior that makes forming relationships hard.

And maybe some do, but that has not been my experience. From my vantage point, the core members I have gotten to know have continued to welcome assistants and volunteers and friends with wide open hearts and arms. They have continued to celebrate as new assistants come into the community, welcoming them into their homes, sharing with them their lives and stories. Each new assistant is welcomed and loved, regardless of how many have come and gone before.

In this way, the core members have been good teachers for me. As new assistants join our community, it's easy for me to look at them and wonder how long they will remain. Will this one stay for a year? Maybe longer? Or will they move on after three months, or even before that? Why is this one even still here? Why does that one have to leave so soon?

But it is not my job to ask these questions. Some may leave before I am ready, and some may stay longer than I expect, but each one's journey is unique to them and ultimately up to them to decide. The core members have shown me that my only job is to journey alongside them, and to love and accept them, for as long as I am allowed. 

And in my time here at L'Arche Heartland, I have been blessed to be in relationship with some pretty amazing teachers, who have taught me by example, who have shown me what this looks like, and who I can only hope to emulate in my relationships with others.

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