Let me give you a brief history. As a child I would pray to God and ask him why I was living in the circumstances I found myself in. His answer was always, “so you can help others.” As you can imagine, I did not understand, but I kept praying.
After a failed marriage and my son being an adult, I decided to fulfill my dream of becoming a truck driver. When I told my son, he laughed and said “mom, you can’t back up a utility trailer, what makes you think you can do this?” I told him that that was why I was going to truck driving school, so they could teach me.
I enjoyed my 10 years of driving. Being able to see the wildlife in their natural habitat, the wide-open spaces, yes even the snow (not my favorite), warmed my heart. I became a trainer and taught others, including my son to drive truck.
While driving, I had many hours to talk to God. He kept telling me to go home. I am ashamed to say that I told Him no. You see, my bills did not reflect driving locally; the pay for local drivers is much less than over the road drivers. I injured my back, which is not unusual for truck drivers. However, when all three doctors told me I would be “crippled within five more years, if I continued driving,” it was time for me to listen and stop.
I then went with a friend to support her in obtaining her GED. Lucky for me, I took the test as well and passed. I then enrolled in community college. I earned two AA degrees, with several certificates. Not finding the type of employment I wanted, I enrolled at Eastern Washington University (EWU), into the Social Work program. Once I left there I helped care for a retired couple in Southern California. After my year commitment was complete, I came home to the Northwest.
Once here, I began looking for employment that would fill my heart. While looking at job listings on Indeed, I came across this position with L’Arche Portland. I had volunteered to work with the D/IDP population while attending EWU and found I enjoyed myself. When I continued reading about L’Arche I remembered my childhood prayers and what God had said to me. I immediately applied and was anxious each day waiting.
Then, one day, I checked my email and there was interest from L’Arche. I had several interviews over Skype and became even more convinced that this is where I was supposed to be. Each time I was asked if I had any questions, I answered “yes, when are you going to hire me?” Never in my life had I been so bold. I felt safe to explain my dreams and what God had been telling me. So, you see, I really don’t feel as though L’Arche Portland or myself had a choice, this was God driven. I had finally started saying yes to God, knowing that He will always take care of me, and this is my reward, L’Arche Portland.
Having volunteered over 1,000 hours working with the I/DDP population, I thought I knew what working as a live-in caregiver would entail. Not only did I realize just how little I knew, but I also came to realize that L’Arche Portland is unique in its community-centered model.
Community at L’Arche Portland means so much more than what I had thought. Although mistakes are notencouraged, they are not something to be feared either. We are gently assisted to learn a new way of thinking, living, and even a new type of language. I have held many different jobs and have always been fearful of corrections from superiors. Not at L’Arche! I have never heard the word supervisor, let alone superior, since my arrival here at L’Arche Portland.
I have learned that true relationships, community, take time to build; trust is earned. However, once given, it is given freely with love and acceptance. Please don’t misunderstand, the time it takes to build community and the challenges living with other people brings, is more rewarding than absolutely anything I have ever experienced in any previous employment.
L’Arche has a language all its own. I find myself using L’Arche language in my dreams, to awake with a smile and even a chuckle on those mornings. My fears are challenged here. As I unlearn my fears and trust in the L’Arche model, I find courage and strength in vulnerability. What I have come to believe is that if the world ran like L’Arche, it would be a better place; a place without fear of reprimand, a place of encouragement, a place of love.
I remember the first time a core member gave me a hug. They had a huge smile and an even bigger thank you for me. They had two small tears in their jacket. Being a handy crafty person, I thought I would sew them up. I found a small sewing kit that had belonged to my late father and was happily surprised to find red thread in the kit. When they came home to find the jacket repaired, they freely shared smiles and appreciation. I was equally happy that the needle and thread had belonged to my dad, so I had that connection as well as making a new friend.
Living and working at L’Arche Portland, I arise with a cheerful heart and lay my head down at night with a sense of accomplishment, which brings a more restful slumber and a joy I never knew I missed. Thank you L’Arche Portland for accepting and trusting in your choice enough to bring me into your community.