I remember exactly where I was standing. It was in a small hallway at a L’Arche home in Washington, D.C., when I met my friend and housemate Pedro. At the time, I was visiting L’Arche for a series of interviews. I had not yet received an official job offer, but even so, I knew that I would be coming to live and work there. I could feel it in my bones; this was where I needed to be. And amid this sense of assurance, a white-haired man walked up to me.
He leaned in toward my face, speaking loudly and emphatically in Spanish. Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure about coming to live in the community. The man before me raised his arms and gestured emphatically, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was saying. The foreign words were incomprehensible, and Pedro’s (not his real name) unique pronunciation, proximity and volume disconcerted me. I wondered: How should I respond? Finally my companion translated a few phrases. Pedro was giving me a blessing, welcoming me into his home. I smiled and nodded, grateful for the prayer. Yet I also thought: We’re going to be housemates? But I can’t understand a thing he says! God, are you sure?
The answer came back, almost before I’d finished the question: Yes.