Celebrate the Gift
By John Guido
The June heat and humidity were ferocious but couldn’t dampen the joy of the many family members and friends gathered to celebrate Helen Humphries’ 60th birthday in the back garden of her home on Church Street in Richmond Hill. As the punch flowed, old friendships were renewed and new connections made over funny and touching stories of the woman we were celebrating.
Helen was the first woman with an intellectual disability welcomed to L’Arche in Canada by Steve Newroth and his wife Ann, Helen’s niece, who began Daybreak in October 1969. She was a true original. She created passionate relationships with a small circle of family and friends while charming her way through community life both in L’Arche and in her neighbourhood. The rules rarely applied to Helen.
The most extraordinary thing about her 60th was that Helen loved it. For years, she had banned her birthday. But as dementia began to steal her memory, Helen forgot her opposition and enjoyed the day – it was a birthday miracle! It would be the last real celebration of Helen’s life before her funeral a few years later, another occasion for people to come together, tell stories, and celebrate a unique life well lived.
The Power of Celebration
In L’Arche, we love to celebrate. Celebrations involve people coming together, sharing food and drink, music, laughter, and of course stories that remind us of who we are and why we belong together. Birthdays and anniversaries are the opportunity to celebrate the gifts of the person and remind them that they have something special to offer. Holidays and gatherings have their own rituals that give meaning to our common life. Funerals are celebrations of life that remind us what really matters.
Community anniversaries are also an opportunity to remember with joy and gratitude. For the next 12 months, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and of L’Arche In Canada. We will take time throughout the year to gather and share our stories in many creative ways. We will also share them in social media and on larche.ca through photos, videos, stories, and articles by our members with and without disabilities, friends, and partners across Canada.
Creating a world where everyone belongs!
Throughout this 50th year, L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, on what we are learning within L’Arche and with our partners that promotes the vision and practice of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.
Celebrate the Gift of Belonging
Research shows what L’Arche has long known: people are happier – even live longer – when they enjoy friendships, strong social networks, and belonging in communities where they are known and valued. We are better together.
Celebrate the Gift of Diversity
L’Arche members have learned that deep encounter and listening with respect to the ‘other’ helps us discover that we are all imperfect and that we are all gifted in various wonderful and necessary ways. Difference makes our lives richer.
Celebrate the Gift of Inclusion
L’Arche members are making a difference in the wider community. We know that when persons with disabilities take their place at the table, they thrive. And they change the table, helping make it more just, vibrant, and compassionate for everyone.
We have much to be grateful for in our life together and our mission for the world. L’Arche can be serious, yet we know that celebration (like forgiveness) is at the heart of community. In L’Arche, we celebrate every chance we get.
So, in our gatherings and postings leading to October 2019, let’s celebrate. Let’s make art and music, sing, dance, eat and drink, tell stories, and have fun together. Let’s widen the circle, welcoming back old friends and making new ones.
Let’s welcome the spirit of new life for the next 50 years!
- Core Members
- Day Center
- Disability Arts
- Gifts and Abilities
- Jean Vanier
- Personal Journey
- Persons with Disabilities