A Year In L’Arche

The following is a reflection from Jocelyn Delgado, a member of the FOLFC Leadership Team and former assistant at the L’Arche Ipswich community in England.

Traveling to a different country to live a year in a place where I’d never met anyone–much less the people I’d be living or working with–was not as scary an idea as dragging a suitcase taller than my belly button down a crowded, slippery staircase during the London morning commute onto the tube. Needless to say, the scariest partof this new journey in L’Arche was out of the way within the first 24 hours.

The decision to live a year in L’Arche was a simple one for me. I was tired of being stressed out and constantly competing. I was coming from four years at a small Liberal Arts college in Nebraska where, inevitably, the culture was soaked in competition. It’s an incredible experience to be surrounded by young people ready to prove how they can change the world. My problem was, I wasn’t ready to change the world. First, I needed my world to be changed. So, I got my affairs in order, kissed my mom, dad, and boyfriend “goodbye” after a final meal at TacoBell, cried the entire escalator-ride down to the security line, and walked towards the next chapter.

Fast forward through flights, layovers, traumatic events on the tube (which I shall forever be embarrassed about), train rides, and arriving at a home which would now be mine for the next year. I sat down at a table that I would sit down at the same time with the same people for the next year. I was there and my routine began.

My LIFE began. In all the time I wasn’t worrying about how I was going to pay for my next meal, or who I was going to share that meal with, or the other hundreds of limiting thoughts that had previously drained all creativity,joy, peace, and adventure from my life, a void was filled.

I was exposed to a life of truth–raw human truth. Of course, the truth was not always pleasant. There are all kinds of smells that come with truth, like towels left in the washer for mul- tiple days. It smelled like a home that was full of living, breathing, sweating, etc. HUMANS. Everything wasn’t good and easy. I often dreaded the idea of going to back after a week on holiday. I often wanted to quit.

But the thing with L’Arche was, for every way in which it had poked me and prodded me and even sometimes pushed me straight onto my face, it was also always there to pick me up. And because of L’Arche, I got a taste of the purest, and most honest love I had ever experienced. I have family and friends from all over the world with differing beliefs, styles, preferences in bread product, etc. My personal community touches multiple states, countries, and continents. A literal extension, it serves as the perfect symbolism for the ways in which I grew from this experience.

There was no way to hesitate or say “no”, I had a place in this community. People were still going to love me and expect things from me and require my time, and I was going to have to give it. Because as much as anyone needed me, I needed them more.

While there are some who are still fighting for a chance to be a part of a community, there are are many of us who get the privilege of deciding that we’re better off without it. After having lived in the latter mindset for much of my life, L’Arche quickly knocked me off of the high horse from which I looked down. I was hooked, and that’s why I’m here now.