One Sunday afternoon, over iced-chocolates at the Yarralumla Café, Anne Belbeoch shared with Annie Patterson that “one year living in L’Arche has taught me so much more than all my years in school.”
Annie encouraged Anne to write about this and the following article emerged. Anne Belbeoch, 25, from France, fulfilled her time with Genesaret in April 2018 and hopes to continue her journey in L’Arche in the future …
I can only think about Sue Wood’s words, in the book “Waterhole of Hope”, “community life does impinge on your personal freedom, but in another way it gives you more. When you give up something more is actually given back. You don’t actually lose your identity; you gain your true self. That has been the gift of community to me. I’ve found who I am. I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to wear masks. We have to take off our mask in community or we won’t survive. But if we’re prepared to let go who we think we are, and become who we really are, then we are free”.
I’m learning much more about myself and what it means to be a human being, much more than at school, because I’m sharing life with people who are completely different from myself, but very keen to give and to love, to help. I still don’t know much about myself, and still have many hard lessons to learn, but L’Arche moves you much more than just being a student, who’s there to learn theories and nothing else. There is no theory in L’Arche. You’re faced to the other and to yourself, and you have to not only deal with that, but make the best of it.
Ron, Scott, Gemma and Michael have been my teachers, with their simplicity. I’ve rediscovered that they deserve to be loved for themselves, as I and everybody do, no matters what are our weaknesses. We don’t need to hide it. We can be loved with that as these weaknesses are part of ourselves. We can even ask for help.
Scott’s ability to forgive in daily life was a great lesson. It can as hard to forgive little things everyday as forgiving something that caused a big pain. He is also an example in the way he truly cares for people, without expecting any reward or without taking any pride in it.
Michael taught me to look more beyond the appearances, and taught me that love is also a choice you can make. He is another example of gentleness and another invitation to discover and acknowledge that everyone has a lot to give.
Gemma is a really good friend. She taught me that every moment can be seized and enjoyable. And also that you don’t need to talk a lot to share a lot.
Ron was a gift and great teacher! But I especially remember how he used to see a lot of things as a miracle (like when the plants were growing in the veggie garden). He taught me, very peacefully, to take the time to pay attention to the things that surround me, to appreciate and be grateful for it (when I think about it!) Ronnie never feared death and asked for help, he was always, until the very end, helpful, peaceful and grateful. Maybe that’s why, because he made everything so simple and beautiful, that he died with so much dignity. Nothing has been ugly in this journey because he was living with a lot of grace and gentleness. That showed me that even when you’re physically weak and dependant you still can have a lot to give and still can have immense dignity and stature as long as you’re loved and that you love. I hope that everybody could live and die the same way that Ronnie did.
I remember Scott and Gemma who never complained about all the sacrifices that this journey with Ron toward the end asked of them. They went through it with a lot of grace as well. They made it even more special because of their precious help and example. We had a kind of communion together as we all needed each other.
The community all gathered together very simply around Ron. There was absolutely no difference between core-members, assistants, co-ordinators and friends, as we were all just part of the same community. Everybody had something different to give, and the help came from everywhere and was for everybody.
There’s been many precious moments of presence … listening to music with Ron, or just sitting on the couch together … colouring with Ron and Scott, just chatting and enjoying the presence of each other … going in the garden together and looking at what’s growing … walking with Scott or Michael, while having a chat or not … Scott who leaves the house upset but comes back and is lovely again, with no rancour or anger … that taught me to forget but also forgive, to seize the new occasion of happiness and peace … watching TV with Gemma at night, or being in the car together and sharing some jokes … praying with and for each other. Giving thanks for each other’s presence and life, even when the day hasn’t been easy … Gemma who helps a lot when she knows someone is tired or sad, she’s full of compassion, as Scott … Michael who’s very keen to share every news with you, but who also tells you “I think we’ve been missing you!”.
I have learnt lessons in forgiveness. Gemma, Scott and Michael ask it from their mistakes, as I should do more! They show me that it’s normal and helpful, in a relation, to accept your own weaknesses and to ask people to help you to go through it. It permits you to accept yourself the way you are (I still have much more to learn about it and to act this way). It’s a very long process.
I’ve learned more about myself than in many years at school! I feel more open minded and tolerant.
I think I dare more looking through the appearances, even if it’s still hard and can make me feel more uncomfortable at first.
I start learning that I’m disabled myself and that I need help. The core members are sometimes considered as “dependants” and sometimes useless, and it is very wrong. You have to look through the disability, while you also have to embrace it to really meet the person. I’ve learnt that I need them, in my daily life (for example, in chores and in friendship), but also to know more about myself and to grow up, to know a bit more about what it means to be a human being. I thought I would be the one giving, but I’ve received more than anything else.