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No one remembers him now...

As an infant, he was discarded,

housed in an orphanage

with a thrift shop price tag

pinned to his sleeve.

As a boy, he would depart the village

through the latched gate

to the open fields beyond,

where he could be heard

chattering with the crows.

Or maybe sitting, for hours,

with the grazing sheep

waiting to be herded home.

Sometimes, he could be found

sitting on the church steps,

hugging his knees and

rocking to and fro.

No one remembers the day that the

playground bullies invited him

to join their game of hide and seek.

They enticed him to climb into the trunk

of a dilapidated car,

then left him.

His 18th birthday came and went,

then a gift:

a childless, older couple

took him home.

They loved him,

every part of him.

There was plenty of good food,

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new clothes that fit, and

his own bed

in his own room.

His new mother taught him how to make bread,

to knead the dough, just enough,

then allow it to rise, just so.

His new father taught him to add and subtract, and

how to make change,

using real coins.

The young man got a job at the village bakery,

rising every day at 3 a.m. to begin

baking the bread;

then from 7 ‘till 11 a.m., selling it.

He felt proud.

One night, his mother went to bed,

soft and warm.

The following morning,

she was stiff and cold.

His father died soon thereafter

with a heart that would not heal.

Sometimes, the townsfolk think that the

twice-orphaned man is lost;

but he can be found, resting,

curled between the tombstones

of his mother and father.

— Barbara Lee

If the twice-orphaned man, in the above poem, had lived in the little village of Trosly-Breuil, perhaps the L’Arche community there would have embraced him. The first L’Arche community was created in this French hamlet in 1964. Today, L’Arche is a worldwide network of over 150 communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together and value the unique gifts of every person. The original members of the community were Roman Catholic but, today, communities welcome people with a kaleidoscope of spiritual and cultural backgrounds.

Reverend Duncan Hilton, formerly of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro, spent a summer living at L’Arche, Erie (Pa.). Like so many others, he was profoundly moved by the joy and sense of belonging that such a community nurtured. Two years ago, he spearheaded the initiative to explore the creation of a L’Arche community in Southern Vermont. Today, a dedicated group of local people, working with L’Arche USA, continues on this exciting journey. At the heart of this mission is the belief that our society could become more human and compassionate if the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities could be revealed through mutually transforming relationships and authentic friendships. A distinctive feature of a L’Arche community is a rebalancing of the usual relationships of care and power. All are called to serve one another and to grow together. In addition, L’Arche communities engage wholeheartedly in local life and can be a unifying sign of hope that we, indeed, can transform our lives together when we see each other’s inner beauty and goodness.

If you are interested in learning more about the local L’Arche endeavor, you are invited to contact: Barbara Lee at bklmd22@gmail.com.

P.S. And on Saturday Oct. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1, the Friends of L’Arche of Southern Vermont are having a “Fall Fiesta” on the Brattleboro Common – includes lunch and music. Please join us and invite your friends. Halloween costumes welcomed! Bring chairs or a blanket for sitting.

With Brattleboro voting overwhelmingly to become part of the international Charter for Compassion, the Reformer and The Commons have agreed to publish a “Compassion Story of the Month.” This is the 52nd. Submissions, from Brattleboro area residents, for future publication, not to exceed 650 words, should be emailed to: compassionstory@gmail.com or mailed to: Compassion Story of the Month, PO Box 50, Marlboro, VT 05344. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address. Earlier submitted stories will automatically be considered in subsequent months.