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 with friends at her party

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.

Helen with her birthday cake

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.

L’Arche Canada celebration in Halifax

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 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.

50th anniversary logo

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.

You’re Invited!

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!

Community arts create a world where everyone is valued and belongs

The community arts movement and organizations like Art Hives build stronger communities and a more human society. L’Arche celebrates the unique gifts of artists and the community creative spaces where they thrive.

Celebrate the Gift

In October 2019, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and of L’Arche In Canada. We will take time in the next 12 months to share our stories in many creative ways. L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, celebrating the gifts of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

L’Arche Tova Café promotes Belonging and Inclusion in Winnipeg

Social purpose businesses or enterprises focused on food and hospitality are vibrant and innovative ways to promote belonging and inclusion. For over 6 years, L’Arche Tova Café has led the way not only for the city of Winnipeg, but also for L’Arche in Canada.

Storytelling “with”

L’Arche storytelling puts belonging, diversity, and inclusion at the centre to help us “imagine the world differently.”

Where is happiness, where is it…?

Happiness is a trendy topic. There are as many definitions of happiness as there are individuals, yet never has a civilization developed such precise models and ideas of what happiness should be.

Institutional life – a bit of context

Raphael Amato offers some background on the role of institutions in the 20th century

Listening to and amplifying the voices of marginalized people

Each message pays tribute first to a person’s story, highlighting and sharing the richness and diversity of these heartfelt testimonies.

L’Arche International Family Day

The first Saturday of October is L’Arche International Family Day. Discover the gift of L’Arche around the world and celebrate our solidarity with one another.

Setting our course for the next 50 years

Looking forward to an era where L’Arche people with and without disabilities join with others of like spirit to advocate and change society – making it more inclusive for everyone.

L’Arche London’s Gathering Place

One example of the increased impact L’Arche communities are having across Canada