I first came to L’Arche three years ago seeking more life-giving work – I had always had a heart for people and thrived in my past community experiences, but my studies and employment at the time were not filling me with the life that I knew was possible.

My sister had meaningful and healing experiences living in L’Arche as an assistant, and suggested I join the community. I began working respite, and while Covid-19 was a large part of my first L’Arche experiences, I felt so blessed to have work that presented opportunities to build relationships with a diverse group of people. I applied to be a live-in assistant when a room opened up at Elpida – an all-women’s home, in which I had made strong connections while working respite. This was my first time moving out of my childhood home and away from my family, so it was a great gift to find family in my new home Elpida!

Navigating relationships with people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and abilities while living in close quarters during the pandemic was challenging, but the vulnerable ways we learned, grew, and loved one another changed my life. The core members brought us together, feeding my spirit in a time when life seemed rather empty. It was the little things that brought me so much joy – walks, crafts, spontaneous movie nights, birthdays and celebratory times when we all dressed to the nines even though we couldn’t go out.

Elpida’s core members – LeeAnn, Gina, Barb, and Stacey, helped me to feel awe and wonder at life’s ordinary things in a fresh way. The pure joy that they showed just in our being together was contagious.

This is what I have always appreciated about L’Arche – the act of simply “Being With.” Although we have practical routines of banking, shopping, cooking and cleaning, it is being present to each other that creates connection, joy and a kind of love that both gives and receives. I built wonderful connections as we shared stories from diverse past experiences, were vulnerable with each other, laughed and cried together, and got creative with house activities. I learned many new things from my fellow live-in assistants and they provided me with a window into perspectives different from my own.

My time as a live-in assistant brought me eight new nonbiological sisters who I carry with me through life’s changes. I am now a live-out assistant at Elpida, and although life and staff are always changing, Elpida’s ladies continue to teach me to be more present and find joy in the little things. As L’Arche Winnipeg moves forward into the future, the “being with” one another will always be something that will help us be more attentive to each other, and help us grow in loving and being loved in the present moment, wherever that finds us.

By Grace Slivinski, Community Circles

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