L’Arche communities in the United States provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers. At the heart of L’Arche are the adults who have intellectual disabilities—known as “core members”—and Andrew is to be one of them, starting next Thursday. We are so excited for him, and I looked for something amid the writings of the founder, the French Canadian Jean Vanier, that will give the unique flavor of L'Arche so you can rejoice with us. I found this story of eight year old Armando, told by Monsieur Vanier:
"Armando cannot walk or talk and is very small for his age. He came to us (L'Arche) from an orphanage where he had been abandoned. He no longer wanted to eat because he no longer wanted to live cast off from his mother. He was desperately thin and was dying from lack of food. After a while in our community where he found people who held him, loved him, and wanted him to live, he gradually began to eat again and to develop in a remarkable way. He still cannot walk or talk or eat by himself, his body is twisted and broken, and he has a severe mental disability, but when you pick him up, his eyes and his whole body quiver with joy and excitement and say: "I love you." He has a deep therapeutic influence on people.
(At a gathering of bishops in Rome in 1987)
"I asked a bishop if he wanted to hold Armando in his arms. He did. I watched as Armando settled into his arms and started to quiver and smile, his little eyes shining. A half hour later I came back to see if the bishop wanted me to take back Armando. "No, no," he replied. I could see that Armando in all his littleness, but with the power of love in his heart, was touching and changing the heart of that bishop. Bishops are busy men, they have power and they frequently suffer acts of aggression, so they have to create solid defense mechanisms. But someone like Armando can penetrate the barriers they—and all of us—create around our hearts; Armando can awaken us to love and call forth the well of living waters and of tenderness hidden inside of us."
I (Alison speaking) hope this touched your heart as much as it did mine. Andrew is going to a place where he will be deeply loved and appreciated, not just by his family but by a community of his peers, for the rest of his life.
I couldn't wish for a happier ending.