When I think of my year in L’Arche I think of two words: Home and Fulfilment.

One of the most special things about living in a L’Arche house is the sense of community and belonging. It feels like a big family. With so many people from every walk of life living and working together, I’ve never felt such a feeling of togetherness and acceptance.

L’Arche encouraged me to see the world in such a different way. Seeing the world through the core members' eyes, people who have travelled completely different paths to my own, taught me so much, and confounded much of what I thought to be true. Emily’s pure joy and appreciation of the simple things - listening to music and good food, being surrounded by people she knows. Milly’s unbeatable confidence, her ability to light up any room with her smile and laughter. Zoë’s patience and love of hot chocolate and cats. Laura’s humour, how thirty seconds in a movie can bring so much laughter, her ways of giving thanks to those around her. The importance of vulnerability, of when to ask for help, when to cry, when to laugh and hug with joy. To be open, to not hide behind what we think other people want to see. Even on the days when the morning started earlier than expected, or the night was interrupted, I felt there was always a feeling that all will be okay.

I learnt that the other things didn’t matter. The word fulfilment started to mean something totally different to me. It didn’t matter to the core members what outfit I was wearing that day, or how my hair looked. It mattered how open I was, whether I was willing to listen, to just be there, to eat and chat with, to go on a walk to the shops, or pop out and get a hot chocolate, to play music, to choose the most colourful outfit with. The things that I thought mattered before no longer took as much precedence and the things that I thought were small, or perhaps even mundane, became the bigger, most special parts of the day: the things that really mattered.

When I think back to my year at L’Arche I think of friendship and happiness. A year filled with smiles, with some of the highest highs and lowest lows. A year of trust and acceptance. A year of learning and growing, and knowing that a hug or sharing a cup of tea can solve almost anything. A year of learning that a little goes a long way. Knowing that joy is truly contagious.

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