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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.