Of course, there's no shortage of work elsewhere, so I followed a co-worker's suggestion and started wrapping and packing pictures in the community room. It was quiet, and I was alone for quite a while, or thought I was until I heard an odd huffing sound behind me. When I turned to investigate, I found Darren on the other side of a stack of crates, adjusting things.
I'm not sure what it is about Darren that warms my heart. Maybe it's that he gave me my first L'Arche "hug." He certainly isn't beautiful. He doesn't speak, except with gestures and unusual sounds. He often stands and rocks, his hands making spastic movements that rival anything those "popping" dancers do. I suspect my appreciation of Darren is all these things combined with the fact that he likes things the way he likes them. He's the guy who makes sure the pictures on the wall are hanging perfectly straight. It's his gift. Today when he came to see what I was doing, I watched as he went to where some crates were standing haphazardly on a table. He lined them up perfectly parallel to the table's edge. Then he picked up a few tiny pieces of paper that were scattered on the floor. I gave him a few bits that had torn off the newsprint I was using to wrap pictures, and he put them in the garbage can for me. When he ran out of little things to tidy, away he went.
This move is a difficult thing for many of our people with disabilities at L'Arche. Change and all the uncertainties it brings has everyone on edge to a certain degree. But Darren is still Darren, simply straightening and tidying, and making me smile.
Way back in November, I shared a video link about the L'Arche community receiving a very generous donation from Shaw Cable. It allowed for the purchase of a new disabled-accessible van for transporting the Day Program participants to their community involvements. The new van arrived last week, and I've had several people tell me about the party that erupted in the parking lot when the dealer delivered it. The entire Day Program went outside to celebrate with drums and cheers, and the people who brought the vehicle commented that they had never received such a welcome in their lives. When I saw Thomas on Tuesday, the first thing he told me was that he rode in the new van!
Even in the midst of the chaos, we always have things to celebrate at L'Arche. That's part of the reason I love my job.