Memory Box: Pinewood Floorboards

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

Knock, knock, knock! It isn’t Morse code, though it’s a form of communication you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever lived in an apartment building. Knock, knock, knock! We hear the knocks through a wall or the ceiling. “Turn the music down!” “Stop yelling!” “Be quiet!” The knocks are a call for silence. That was the case, at least, until a nun named Elizabeth Buckley came to L’Arche Daybreak.

Elizabeth joined the original L’Arche community in France shortly after L’Arche began. She went on to found L’Arche Inverness in Scotland and L’Arche Boston (which you would have guessed was her hometown if you heard her wicked-awesome accent). She spent decades there as the Community Leader before joining L’Arche Daybreak in 1990, when she was fifty-eight.

She moved into the Big House’s cozy basement apartment with the goal of becoming the “hermit of Daybreak.” Instead of the leisurely life of prayer she expected, she quickly became a mentor to Daybreak’s entire leadership team. On any given day she’d shuffle along the office’s hardwood floors in her house slippers, spending time with the whole team.

She encouraged everyone to share their problems in the “Queen Mum’s” office, which she called “Buckleyham Palace.” Her door was always open for a chat, some guidance and a good cup of tea.

As she sat there knitting, she spun yarns out of her many life experiences. Everyone came away from those conversations feeling better than when they arrived.

But the retired Community Leader drew the line at joining the team for meetings, which happened in the office directly above her apartment.

During the meetings, however, she did offer help in her own unique way. “If ever you’re going through a tough time,” she said, “and you don’t see a way forward, just knock on the floor and I’ll pray for you. Day or night, you can knock and know that I’ll be down in my apartment supporting you.”

The nun’s services were called into action on many occasions over a decade. Knock, knock, knock! Whenever Elizabeth heard the knocks through the old pinewood floors, sprinkling some of the old house’s dust onto her short grey hair, she put down her crossword and prayed. After knocking, the team felt relief knowing that they weren’t alone in a tough moment.

As Elizabeth got older, she slowed down and needed assistance. Help was never far away. The office team considered it an honour to be there for her.

During the last years of her life, she continued to hold court at Buckleyham Palace, listening for knocks on her ceiling and offering her support. Then, on July 24, 2016, the knocks went silent. Elizabeth passed away, at the age of eighty-four.

With Elizabeth gone, everyone in L’Arche did what they could to fill her slippers. Knock, knock, knock! A call to silence no longer; thanks to Elizabeth’s example, it’s a call to action. When we hear a knock—whether it’s against a floor or a door, in the form of a ring or a ping—we offer help, however it’s needed.

Sometimes it’s easier to offer help than to ask for it. Always remember that everyone needs help during tough times. As our global community now battles COVID-19, we'll get through it with help from one another. No matter what you’re dealing with—whether it is illness, anxiety or financial stress, you never have to suffer alone. Please, come knocking.

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.

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.

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.