Rita, can you tell us about your personal involvement in the L’Arche Portland community?
When I was with Easter Seals, I saw an diocesan newsletter mentioning Paul Lipscomb, Dorothy Coughlin and Pat Dillon, who had lived in L’Arche Vancouver. I called them and said I’d been in L’Arche Calgary. We met and started talking about how to bring L’Arche to Portland. We had to keep on keeping on, and eventually things came around. After that, I came to community nights and helped Joni in the shower. I was an active participant. I remember Joni, Cindy, David and Mike. Mike was a character! One time we all went out to the coast. I got up early one morning and found Mike walking around. He asked who would make the coffee. I said we needed to make it, and then he asked, “Who will make the coffee in heaven?” I said, “I don’t know Mike.” And he said, “Jesus! Jesus will make the coffee in heaven!” And he laughed.
When and how did you decide to leave a legacy to L’Arche Portland?
When I made my will. At a certain age, you realize you’re not going to be around forever and need to make arrangements. I chose to leave a percentage of my estate to L’Arche Portland. I have great regard for it from having lived in L’Arche and from knowing the people who founded the Portland community. I truly believe in the mission and richness of the experience. A major thing I learned was the start of how to be truly present. I also saw that the core members were truly a support system in themselves - the power of paradox. On a day when I might be having a bad day, the so-called wounded healers [core members] were there to support me. It was not an up/down kind of experience, instead it was mutual. It helped me see myself and face things that were difficult for me, like dealing with bodily functions. My experience of L’Arche really impacted my life. It helped me find the power of paradox in the people I have met and the experiences I have had.
Why should L’Arche Portland be sustained beyond your lifetime?
I believe in the mission. I believe in the people who provide the setting where community can happen. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for human beings to be together in a wonderful way.