Saturday, March 8, 2014

“Everyone is broken except mine is visible” A Closing Reflection on our Journey

September 27th 2013- The day I found out I would be leading a trip to L’Arche with Annie; I had very little knowledge what L’Arche actually was

October 11th 2013- The day Jen Kline, aka Mama Bear, was announced as our accompanier and the dream team started to come to life; I still had little idea on what L’Arche was but was starting to do more research

October 25th 2013-The day the dream team was finalized and I found out who we were taking along with us on this unknown journey to the great white north; I started to understand L’Arche, but had no idea what we were going to encounter along this journey.

March 1st 2014- The dream team departs for L’Arche; the day my life would be changed forever

Marh 8th 2014- The day we departed from the most beautiful experience I could ask for, without a dry eye in the group we said our goodbyes and departed for Erie.

With all of these unknowns and new beginnings of friendship forming, through all the meetings, through all the planning, I wasn’t expecting or ready for what I was about to experience.  In a single week at L’Arche, I learned more about who I am as an individual, and more about life as a whole than I have in my 20 years of living.  This trip put my entire life and my entire being into perspective and I realized what I was taking for granted in life.

Starting this week I led a meditation about us being the light of the world and sharing our light with others throughout the week.  Little did I know that I would be the one having the light shined upon me.  I was expecting to give the talents and love that I had to offer, when in reality all I could do was receive the love, happiness and joy that every single member of L’Arche had to offer.  All that needs to be said is celebration.  This trip was a pure celebration of life itself. 

What I learned throughout this week is that we all have our disabilities and are broken in some sort of way, however the difference between us and the core members is theirs is visible.  You can see what struggles they have encountered, it is all on the surface, but with us we hide ours to appear “normal” in the public eye.  What I learned this week is that we are all the same; we are all beautiful children of God.  I saw the beautiful gifts that the core members had to offer through their high spirits, open hearts, and compassionate beautiful souls.  They have the gift to share everything they have and to shine the light of the world on everyone they encounter.

As we depart for the final time, all I can say is thank you.  Thank you to L’Arche for welcoming a goofy group of Gannon University students into their world.  A thank you to my beautiful dream team for being the best group I could ever ask for.  I went on this trip expecting to make a difference in a core member’s life.  I leave this trip a changed man because of everyone I have encountered. I thank them for always having a smile, for breaking my shell to find out who I really am, and showing me what really matters in life.  It isn’t the new phone, car or money; it’s the relationships you make and the love that you share with everyone that you encounter.

Signing off for the last time,

Chris and the Rest of the Toronto Dream Team 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fun Facts Friday

Hey Everyone,

                This is David writing today. For those of you who don’t know me, I am full of useless information that I usually share and after I say the snippet I follow through by stating “Fun Fact!” This week on the trip the Gannon group has heard many of these fun facts such as the leading cause of lower back pain in males and many others. From this experience, we have also learned many useful and interesting facts about L’Arche and incorporate them into our daily reflection. So if you see the phrase fun fact pop up from any of the other members in this group, it was probably my doing.

                Yesterday we went to the L’arche community in downtown Toronto and had dinner with them. At my house, we had an excellent dinner and community prayer. At this house there were four Core Members and three assistants who were all readily accepting and welcoming of us into their community. That is one of the fun facts that we have come to realize on this ABST. After dinner we were cleaning up and taking the plates out to the kitchen and there was one Core Member who was nonverbal who really made this experience of L’Arche so touching. I was standing in the kitchen with my arms at my side and my hands in my pockets and he came up beside me and looped his arm into the space between mine. I took this as him welcoming and accepting us into the house. Before the prayer, another one of the Core Members took the time to describe what was going on in each of the pictures and again the nonverbal Core Member stood up and made his voice heard when he took a picture off of another shelf and showed it to us. It was of him and another Core Member walking down the street holding hands.


                Today we had a reflection with Chris Jarvis who works in L’Arche Daybreak and while we were in the chapel for reflection we were able to have some really awesome experiences. Fun fact L’Arche has a program called the Spirit Movers which is a group of Core Members who use dance and music to express themselves and have performed for the public many times and are well known throughout the community. They were practicing in the room that we usually have reflection in hence why we were in the chapel. Towards the end of the reflection we were joined by one of the Core Members who plays the wooden spoons in the group and has performed publically for large groups. Fun fact, this performance touched each of us because it was so beautiful to see this happen before us. As we do our final reflection, we are talking about the different experiences we have had that challenged us, pushed us forward, and those that have touched us this week.

And finally, fun fact, in Canada tourniquet is pronounced without the final “t” (so you would say it “turn-a-key) as is Toronto (so you would say it Tor-on-oh) and they also have milk in bags! This has been “Fun Facts by David *tooth glint* “(when you see one of us back in the states, be sure to ask us to sing the theme song for you J)

One more sleep till home!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

“You are my sunshine…"

Welcome back friends! 

This is Annie.  Our group had an awesome Thursday!  This was our final morning in the programs.  Molly and I were in the Club which functions as a community center for the Daybreak community.  It was such a fun morning making masks, finishing the celebration around Mardi Gras.  We then had lunch with Father George and a woman named Elizabeth.  She now lives as a hermit on the Daybreak community property.  We all had a very emotional morning taking in all the love and care that this community has shown us.  We sat with Elizabeth at lunch listening to the story of her experience, both living in and starting L’Arche communities.  As we sit here now we are all sharing our experiences of this week with various core members.  Sharing the times and moments when we have experienced both joy and heart ache. 

Last night we all separately went on the journey of cooking dinner for each of our homes.  I am happy to inform you that we all did well!  One of the dinner guests at my home was a man who has been in the L’Arche Daybreak community for many years, since almost the very beginning.  He and another woman in the community played music for us.  Her on the piano, and he played the spoons.  I was so moved by this experience.  Sitting there listening to “You are my sunshine” and the rhythm of the spoons I realized how special this experience was, it contained the feelings of both comfort and fun, it felt like home.  Here was one of the many times this week when I have seen the home that L’Arche is.  This feeling of home is something that is so present in all the L’Arche communities.  We have been with the Hamilton and the Richmond Hill communities and will be going to Toronto tonight.  In all of our experiences throughout this week I have recognized this need for home that is in all of us.  As we are getting to the end of this week my hope for myself and all of us is that we take that need for home, recognize it in ourselves, and become people who offer that experience to every person we meet from here on out.     

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday Workday!

Hi friends, this is Molly blogging today.  We spent the morning in the various day programs.  Annie and I were at the Club, unfortunately there was only one core member, Helen, but we were able to relax and enjoy spending time with her.  Wednesday’s are usually their “tech” days, so they had IPads that we were able to play some games with.  We were goofing around a bit with some musical apps and a pottery app.  Spending time with Helen and the other core members have really made me reflect on the way that I live my life.  Helen kept saying how she had a “leisurely breakfast” and there was no need to rush.  This made me realize how much I spend my life rushing and I never take the time to just reflect.  I think that is one of the main things that I have been able to gain from this weekend, the importance of slowing down and really enjoying the things in life. 

This evening we are all going back to our houses to cook dinner for the core members.  There are definitely mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety about cooking, but we are all looking forward to this opportunity to cook and spend time eating dinner with the communities that have so graciously welcomed us.  Please stay tuned for more stories about our adventures with L’Arche Daybreak. 
JK note: We also had the privilege of celebrating Ash Wednesday at the Dayspring this morning. And sure enough, a familiar face was presiding over the mass with us. I suppose he did ok :)

The Exciting Conclusion!!

- ├▒ata. Father George joined us there as well. It was an incredible experience to see how the L’Arche Hamilton community connected, not only to each other, but to the local church members as well. After we ate dinner, we cleaned the kitchen (I was very excited about the Hobart industrial dishwasher). Before we could go back to Daybreak, though, we needed to stop and get gas. This was a notable event because Jen Kline went into the store to pay while still wearing her Mardi Gras mask, which was shaped like a cat.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cloudy With a Chance of Pancakes

Hi everybody! This is Leah. We had a very full, fun-packed day of service today. In case you were unaware, today is sometimes known as Fat Tuesday, and is traditionally celebrated with pancakes. We were welcomed into the Hamilton L’Arche community just as warmly as we were welcomed to Daybreak. We started out our day at the Welcome Inn Community Centre, serving a lunch of pancakes to senior citizens. They were very excited, and a bit confused as to why we had traveled all the way from Erie to serve them pancakes. The Welcome Inn provides many other services as well, such as an emergency food bank, financial literacy classes, and a tutoring program for school-aged children. After cleaning up from lunch, the seniors went to play BINGO, and we went to visit a different program associated with the Community Centre, the New Horizons Thrift Store. This second-hand store provides not only affordable goods to those in the community, but a place to build relationships and hone skills. While we were there, we took a few minutes to assist in organizing the children’s toys that were on sale. From there, we took a tour of not only L’Arche Hamilton, but of the surrounding city as well. We paused for a minute during our sightseeing to visit the first Tim Horton’s store. It is quite the landmark, and as always, provided unrivaled coffee. We didn’t stay long, though, and we went to a local church to start setting up for a pancake dinner put on for the L’Arche community. We helped with setting up and cooking the food, and soon after we got there, the core members and assistants began to arrive as well. The festivities were very authentic, with Mardi Gras masks, dancing, and even a pi <- This is where JK's computer died on our van ride home from Hamilton. Stay tuned for the rest of the story!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Old friends and new friends

Hello Friends! 
This is Maureen from the Toronto Dream Team!  This morning the group spent the morning in an orientation and touring the different programs that the core members spend time in during the day.  The places we saw were the club, art studio, woodery, and day program.  In the woodery, we saw a core member who I spent a fair amount of time with in my last experience here at L’Arche.  I was so excited to see that not only did he remember me but my name as well.  This experience really made me feel excited to be back here in this community that is so warm (not in temperature!) and welcoming.  I am feeling excited to continue in our journey and experience the wonderful things that L’Arche has to offer.
Also, we felt a little left out from all the other ABST blogs posting pictures of their sunny, gorgeous scenery, so we decided to include a picture of Chris and Annie enjoying the view of our water-front property!