Last May our L’Arche house took a pilgrimage to Daybreak in Toronto, Canada, to visit the first L’Arche community in North America and the place where Henri Nouwen had lived. One of the final days we were there we decided to take a day trip to Toronto Island. We crossed over part of Lake Ontario on a ferry that beautiful summer day. We had a picnic in the sunshine and watched some ducks and pigeons begging for bread. It was a wonderful day, but I was depressed and upset over a few things that had happened earlier in the trip. I just wanted to be alone to collect my thoughts, and being with four core members and another assistant is the last thing I wanted at that moment.
When I was at my lowest, we started walking around the island and were crossing a bridge over a small stream when a bird flew right over Brenda’s head. Brenda is one of the core members. The rest of us were further behind and yelled to her to move on quickly because the bird was angry and was trying to protect its nest. She just stopped there and started laughing. Soon we were all laughing as the bird dive bombed her again.
We quickly moved off the bridge and continued to laugh at what happened. The image of that bird and Brenda was so comical that I soon forgot my troubles and my whole mood changed. I was then making jokes with her and things looked like they would be alright.
In the coming weeks after returning from Toronto, I would remind Brenda of what happened that day, and she would soon be laughing as my hand came swooping down over her head in imitation of that crazy bird. Her laugh was so infectious that I would soon be laughing, and my mind was quickly removed from any preoccupations I might have.
I find that core members are powerful in their capacity to release me from my mental negativity. This is just one of the amazing things I have discovered being an assistant in L’Arche.
Jim Roedl is a former assistant at L’Arche Wavecrest in Orange, California.