Amy spent a year as a live-in assistant in the L'Arche Manchester Community. Seeking a deeper way of being with people in the world, Amy shares how her time with L'Arche and her relationship with Laura – a core member in the Manchester Community – taught her about joy, wholeheartedness and accepting human fragility. 

I came to L’Arche because I wanted to experience a different and deeper way of being with people in the world. I was grateful that through previous experiences I had lived a life where encounter with marginalised people was at the heart of what I did, but I sensed that L’Arche would take me deeper into what it means to be with people.

We live in a society in which accomplishment and status are rewarded, vulnerability is rejected, and the value of being in relationship with, and to, one another is diminished.

Living, and sharing a home, with people with learning disabilities changes the way that you see and experience the world. It confounds so much of what you thought you knew because suddenly you are living life alongside people who experience the world in a different way.

Living life with Laura, I have experienced the world through her lens. Although she has limited speech, Laura can express herself richly and connects deeply with people. Laura has taught me to understand and experience communication in entirely new ways.

During my first week at L’Arche, Laura signed for me to sit with her and watch the film Sister Act. I was still used to a world where days were meant for doing rather than being. I remember feeling resistance to watching a film in the middle of the day when there was so much that I could do. It took me weeks to realise that she was inviting me to share in her life.

Laura has taught me about joy and wholeheartedness. We share a similar sense of humour and my days with Laura were often characterised by our bouts of laughter, and conversations that were sung and signed.

Laura is quick to forgive and equally quick to say sorry when she feels she has wronged a person. Witnessing this compels me to be more like her. Knowing Laura has enriched my life.

Living L’Arche is like holding a mirror up to yourself and seeing the very best and sometimes the very worst of yourself reflected back. To embrace L’Arche is to accept and love vulnerability and fragility – in yourself and others – and to live the joyfulness that life offers us.

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