Sunday, August 31, 2014

The party of the half century

As I've mentioned before, a wonderful community of people with and without disabilities is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In August of 1964, Jean Vanier bought a house and invited Raphael, Philippe, and eventually several others, to live with him in a little house they called The Ark in the village of Trosly-Breuil in France. What was remarkable about Jean's action was that, in those days, people with disabilities lived lives of loneliness and neglect in large institutions; Jean wanted to give them a sense of family.

So he went about setting up several homes in Trosly-Breuil to rescue people with disabilities from local institutions. But before long, he realized that his act of kindness towards these people brought him far greater benefits than he expected -- their unconditional love and willingness to befriend all comers humbled him and made him realize that they really understood the value of relationships in a way that many people never do. They had a way of calling him to authenticity, and he has been inspired to write many beautiful books explaining their often overlooked gifts, and the gift of community.

In the 50 years since, others have been inspired by Jean's decision and discovered the gifts of those with intellectual disabilities, and 146 similar communities have opened in 35 countries, including Canada. Edmonton's L'Arche community began when Doris and George Myers met Jean Vanier in the early 70's, and was the second in this country.

This image comes from the pages of Intelligent Life, 
a magazine put out by The Economist magazine in the U. K.
To read its excellent article about Jean Vanier and L'Arche, click here.
L'Arche is an amazing community, and has received some media coverage around our 50 year milestone. Besides the article above, this week on CBC radio, the award-winning radio program, Ideas, will begin their new season with two episodes about L'Arche.

The two-part series is called, "How to do ordinary things". It can be heard on Tuesday, Sept. 2nd, and Tuesday, Sept. 9th, at 9:00 p.m. (9:30 in Newfoundland) on CBC Radio One. Its producer, Philip Coulter, will also be discussing the series on the Ideas Labour Day Levee on Monday, September 1st at 9/9:30 p.m. Click the link above to find details and hear what I'm sure will be great programs. I'll be listening in the Mountain Standard Time zone.

Our humble beginnings have remained quite humble, but we know how to celebrate and enjoy life together. So on September 20th, we're having the party of the half century here in Edmonton, and you're invited. Our International 50th Anniversary Gala will be happening at the German Cultural Centre (8310 Roper Road) and will include a banquet, silent auction and live music dance... and you've never danced until you've danced with L'Arche! The Burnham Street Band and the West African/Celtic fusion of WAJJO! are sure to get us all moving. There will also be a silent auction and the celebration of a few of the Edmonton community's own milestones.

So come one, come all, and bring a friend. Tickets are only $60, or $450 for a table of eight. Come and celebrate with us! And if Edmonton is too far away, perhaps there's a L'Arche 50th celebration near you. Click here to find out about the community nearest to you!

Happy 50th Anniversary, L'Arche!
A community gradually discovers, as it grows, that it is not there simply for itself. It belongs to humanity. It has received a gift which must bear fruit for all people.
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 116. 

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