Building Relationships

JillianBy Jillian Foster, FC 20

“On November 28th, I took Pat to All Saints for Mass. Afterwards, we went into the parish office to help out. I helped show Pat what needed to be done and made sure she had all the materials she needed. Pat said that she really enjoyed doing the service and helping out and I thanked her for all the hard work she did.”

There is so much more that goes into a day with Pat, a L’Arche core member, than what can be said in the mandatory note I have to make about her service goal. It has become a weekly ritual to go to Mass on Wednesdays, eat lunch with the wonderful staff of All Saints, help out with any projects they need done, and then go and get the paper. I spend most of my time at L’Arche with Pat, who she has grown very near and dear to my heart. We spend Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays together and I have learned a lot from Pat in that time. I have learned to slow down and take my time because as a 76 year old woman, she can do what she wants! I have learned to truly value my family and friends because she has many that she always talks about and loves. And I have learned how to talk with and listen to all the people I encounter throughout the day like how to ask for help when I need it or to just talk about holiday plans to the lady at the bank. Pat is very good at greeting people and engaging them in conversation because, as she would say, “I was raised right!” It is such a joy to be around her and the other core members, seeing their compassion for others and their humanity that I fear is somewhat lacking in the world.

Going to L’Arche was intimidating at first, despite all the wonderful things that I’ve heard. There is a lot to learn and a lot of securities, precautions, medications, finances, routines, etc. for each core member that needs to be remembered. The most important part though is the relationship with the core members. Walking into Art Class (the Tuesday L’Arche day program) for the first time was overwhelming. Everyone was talking at once and wanted to know what we were doing and what happened over the weekend and who I was and what I packed for lunch and what this friend did or said that day and a million other things that I had trouble catching because I didn’t know them and I had no way to follow the conversation. Luckily, I adapted quickly and the second time I went, I was more prepared. Nowadays, Art Class doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it once was. While certainly challenging at times, I have built a relationship with everyone and they respect me. In the Croyden home, where I spend much of my time, I have built relationships with the core members there as well. From brushing teeth to watching Gunsmoke, the core members at Croyden have been very open and willing to have me walk into their life for a year. Almost four months into my service and I am uneasy for it to end. While I have plans after this year, I am loathing leaving everyone here. For now though, I will keep forming those relationships because as relationships make up the core of L’Arche, they also make up the core of my life.