A Hero Behind the Scenes

Beyond firefighters, medical staff, social workers and police officers, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that there are even more heroes among us. Truck drivers, grocery store clerks, cooks and couriers now rightfully hold an esteemed place in our collective consciousness as they put their health at risk to keep society functioning.

Still yet, there are even more heroes who are behind the scenes but whose roles are — one may think — too small to deserve credit. Today we shine a spotlight on one of those individuals, L'Arche Montérégie’s own Francis Therrien. 

Francis grew up surrounded by nature in picturesque Saint-Hyacinthe, sixty kilometres east of Montreal. Throughout the Seventies and Eighties he lived on his family's farm among cows, ducks, dogs and cats. Despite this idyllic upbringing, he decided to join L’Arche in 1990 to be part of a community. Now a core member of the Fleurs de Soleil house in Beloeil, he has incredible friends and a job that he loves, with a mountain and river view out his living room window. He’s also managed to remain in agriculture, working a part-time job at his house’s garden, preparing the compost, turning the soil, mowing the lawn, among other tasks fit for a farmer’s son. But it’s his full-time job in which Francis has been a real lifesaver. 

Twelve years ago, Francis landed a position at Demers Ambulance, the oldest continuous ambulance manufacturer in North America. Whether you live in Peterborough, Ontario, Las Vegas, Nevada or somewhere in between, more than likely you’ve seen their emergency medical and fire ambulances racing through your city to respond to life-threatening emergencies. When Francis started at the company he performed custodial duties, cleaning the facility. More recently, he spends five days a week helping the assembly line run smoothly. One can imagine all the boxes of parts that arrive at a leading ambulance manufacturer. Francis walks up and down the assembly line collecting all the empty boxes, sorts them and compresses them. Francis’s role within the company is small, but crucial. He may not be the ambulance’s designer, builder or inspector but his contribution allows everyone else to efficiently manufacture more ambulances, which in turn leads to more incredible life-saving rescues. It’s a team effort, of which Francis is a small but necessary part. 

Francis’ contributions to Demers go beyond his official job. For one, he has a way of brightening everyone’s day at work, whether he’s reminding his colleagues of payday or sharing his dreams of winning the lottery. His colleagues became so intrigued by L’Arche that ten of them came for dinner at Francis’s house. Francis was proud to have his work friends and home friends mingle. Though L’Arche and Demers have both been in Boleil for decades, a short drive away from one another down the Richelieu River, it took Francis to bridge the gap between them. Perhaps more core members will follow in Francis’ footsteps by working at Demers (or, after hearing his story, other companies and organizations will consider the benefits of hiring a L’Arche core member). We never know what positive butterfly effect may come from our actions. 

Francis has been a long-time believer in the power of small gestures. Even before the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Francis was struck by how dire the living conditions in Haiti could be. L’Arche Montérégie has always been a supporter of L’Arche Haiti but Francis felt compelled to help in his own way. For ten years he’s been collecting cans in support of L’Arche Haiti. Sure, each can only nets 5 cents, but in ten years he’s collected 120,000 cans, sending approximately $6000 to Haiti. His solo initiative grew into a team effort at work; everyone at Demers saves their empty cans for Francis. 

How many people does it take to save a life? When somebody falls seriously ill, a newspaper covering the story may feature the person who called 9-1-1 or the first responder. But should we not also thank the ambulance manufacturer? What about the person who provided telecommunications that allowed 9-1-1 to be called, or the barista who made the first responder’s coffee that kept them alert? If we can believe that it takes a village to raise a child, it may very well take a village to save a life. However much you agree with the argument, when we put our best foot forward every day there are bound to be positive ripple effects that stretch far and wide. Even drinking a Dr Pepper can have incredible ripple effects, so long as Francis is around. Your empty can becomes part of a $6000 donation to an organization in Haiti. Yes, it was just one can out of 120,000 cans but each can has its own story.

From Hyderabad to Lethbridge Who Would’ve Thought?

After Roop Chittineni finished high school in his hometown of Hyderabad, India he moved to Southern Ontario to pursue a degree in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. He liked exercising and thought that if he learned more about the human body he could use that knowledge to elevate everyone’s life experience.

Memory Box: Pinewood Floorboards

What does a set of 1940s floorboards have to teach us about COVID living?

Stepping Up

When Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer stated that non-medical masks limit the transmission of COVID-19, L’Arche Saskatoon’s artsy residents also got to work. Out came the fabrics, scissors, thread and needles. Brock wanted to contribute using two of his greatest assets: his feet.

A Light Ahead

The social distancing caused by the pandemic has been trying. Thankfully, aside from those who have donated their time, money and ingenuity to help L’Arche, there are the health care workers, grocery store clerks and all those on the front line who are helping the L’Arche community get through this crisis. With their help, it won’t be long until the Gathering Place opens again and the community starts making new memories.

Second Life

Kris first met Joanna in L’Arche London, Ontario. She encouraged Kris to join L’Arche, and he did. They lived and worked side-by-side for six years until Kris moved to Nova Scotia. Still, they managed to see each other a few times a year and occasionally called one another about matters of life and faith. But this call was different.

The Gift of Dance

Dance is a profound gift; it’s an artistic expression, a mood enhancer, a workout, a surefire way to impress a date and a form of magic. A dancer can transform into a flower, a lion or their favourite pop star. Above all, dance is an act of joy. (We dare you to wiggle around for a minute and not feel happier than you were before.) The gift of dance, and all it provides, has found its way into L’Arche.

Life’s Tough Obstacles

It was late June. A park in Edmonton had been reserved. Food was stacked on picnic tables. Local students of all ages were dressed in taekwondo uniforms, preparing for their annual Break-a-thon. The Break-a-thon is an innovative fundraiser where martial arts students showcase their skills by breaking boards. For each broken board, donations are pledged and raised for L’Arche.

Taking our place in the inclusion movement

It is an important time for the accessibility and inclusion movement in Canada and the world, and L’Arche Canada is developing our capacity to take our place.

Silent encounter with the “man who repairs women”

Denis Mukwege begs us empathetically to remain attentive, to listen deeply to what is inherent in our human condition: our sensitivity and vulnerability.