By Sarah Ruszkowski
I grinned to myself as I stood in a long, not-really-moving line at the pop machine. It was one of the fancy ones with a touch screen and seemingly infinite amount of pop flavors. Earlier that day, my housemate Debora Green and I took a solid three minutes to choose and fill our cups, and now, as I waited in line, I watched teams of core people and assistants doing the same (hence the very long line). The familiarity was striking to me. These people are speaking my language.
Jean Vanier describes love as a recognition of covenant, of mutual belonging. As we in L’Arche USA celebrated 50 years of being us, we were celebrating the fact that we belong to each other. And let me tell you, I am so grateful to belong to a group of people that bedazzle their foam visors, full-body dance to both Elvis and Walk the Moon, and pray wholeheartedly through the words of This Little Light of Mine. And how nice it is to share too the disappointment of not getting to the bathroom in enough time to prevent an accident, and the frustration of supporting someone to make healthy choices when there is an endless supply of pizza.
It is sometimes difficult for me to understand L’Arche as bigger than Ontario House, or see it as broader than the four L’Arche homes in Greater Washington, D.C. It can be easy to exist within our bubble and think that we are the only ones who could possibly understand the joy and challenges within this particular way of life. How very self-important of me-and how very untrue.
During the prayer service, when Tim Shriver asked the core people to pray over those around them, a woman from another community reached from behind me and placed her hand on my head. I couldn’t hear or understand what she was saying, but in that moment I was loved in a complete and unconditional way.
To receive that kind of love from a person who didn’t know my name or my story, but knew that I was there at this celebration as a member of her larger L’Arche family, was an incredible gift.
Because of the yes I have said to L’Arche for these last four years (a drop in the bucket compared to the years of commitment I encountered that weekend), I was gifted with this recognition of mutual belonging. I was loved.
Here’s to another fifty years. I wanted to write this down, because I didn’t want to forget the largeness of this beautifully chaotic family. I want to remember the seven extra verses of This Little Light of Mine that we sang because the journey with the banners was long and slow-moving. I need the image of the conga line at the dance party on our last night together to stick in my head. It would be pretty difficult to forget the awe-inspiring rendition of Amazing Grace sang at the prayer service. But just in case, I wanted to write it down. Because all of this, it is who we are.
Sarah Ruszkowski is the home-life leader at Ontario House at L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. Her use of the word “pop” gives away her Midwestern roots; she’s originally from the Chicago suburbs and studied at the University of Notre Dame.