By Kathlea Reintjes

My name is Kathlea and I am a live-in at L’Arche Highland in Inverness, Scotland. I've committed to live and work in one of the houses on a voluntary basis for one year.

When I went to the L'Arche retreat for first year live-ins at the Bield, I had already been in L’Arche for about 10 months, I had lived through ups and downs, and I had experienced the joys and also the struggles of being a live-in.

Going to the retreat gave me the chance to step back from my busy life for a few days. It gave me the opportunity to think about what I had experienced as well as to relax and to just look after myself for a while. And the beautiful thing was to not do this on my own but alongside other wonderful people. Some of us were religious, some of us were not – the retreat was open to everyone. Being together with other live-ins from other communities for a few days was great. I felt so connected through sharing stories and through finding out how different but also how similar our L’Arche journeys were.

In my view, the retreat was a perfect mixture of having time together and having time for myself.

I really enjoyed the task of reflecting on my life journey in a creative way. One afternoon was also spent in silence but it definitely wasn’t as challenging as it sounds. Actually, I found it helpful since it was a chance to look a bit deeper into myself while I was enjoying the beautiful and peaceful atmosphere at the Bield. Hearing the singing of the birds and the wind in the leaves made me feel connected to nature. I listened to my own thoughts, and I reflected on what was important to me and what I was grateful for.

For me, this has a lot to do with spirituality. In the retreat, I learned that spirituality is something very individual, that it doesn’t need to be religious and that it is okay to still be on the journey of discovering what it means to me. In the time of silence, I wrote down some of my thoughts in a notebook. I am quite happy that I did it because whenever I reread my notes, it takes me back to the gratitude I was feeling at that moment. I felt grateful for all the friendships and relationships I had built in my time in L’Arche and I recognized how incredibly special that is.

I like to remember all the little moments in which I felt so connected to other community members, all the fun, the good conversations and even the talks about difficult topics which allowed us to learn and grow.

I left the retreat feeling connected to L’Arche. I felt like I knew what matters most (to me): building meaningful relationships with people with and without learning disabilities, accepting and respecting each other and supporting each other through the good and hard times.

It is amazing how comfortable I felt in the group of people at the retreat. Even though we didn’t know each other beforehand, I immediately felt at home. On the last night, we were sitting around a campfire and I felt like I was together with my friends – I guess this is L’Arche.

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