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So how does one spend their last evening as part of Sherman House?  After all the work is finished – the lunches made and the dishes cleaned up, journals filled out and laundry put away – the best way to relax is sitting beside Alice on the couch.  We’ve developed a little routine together that involves laughing until our guts are about to burst and then resting until it’s time to head upstairs for bed.  It’s thoroughly enjoyed by us both.

As I lay on the couch with watery eyes closed after our usual hysterics, I suddenly became aware of the silence in the room.  Just like children and pets, when your co-worker is too quiet you know you should be suspicious.  Of course I jumped up off the couch just in time to catch Manoj arming Alice, an avid water fighter, with a water bottle and encouraging her that I should be her target.  But Manoj underestimates the connection that Alice and I share, our loyalty to one another, and I had no doubt I could easily win her over to my side.  Within seconds I was in the kitchen filling another water bottle while Alice cornered Manoj in the dining room.

A brief chase ensued, which unfortunately left Manoj in complete control of the sprayer connected to the kitchen sink, and thereby armed and ready to fire at anyone approaching the kitchen via the main foyer, and Alice and I with only one water bottle.  I ducked into the closest bathroom to refill and handed the weapon off to Alice, who having removed her socks looked adequately prepared for a kamikaze mission into the kitchen to soak Manoj (despite the fact that he had shot ample warnings our direction and she was sure to get drenched).  Still, we knew he would not come out of this battle dry since the sprayer has a faulty leak that results in a steady stream directed at the wielder.  And Alice rarely misses her target.  We laughed menacingly.

Yes, with Alice on my side it all seemed perfect.  I would likely get out of this bone dry and triumphant over my mischievous coworker.  But I learned an important lesson tonight.  Although Alice and I are close, our connection does not run deeper than her love to see somebody she loves getting wet.  For a split second I saw the glint in her eye, but the betrayal shocked me into inaction and rather than bolt from the bathroom for the cover of another door, I backed up and trapped myself alone against my treacherous enemy.  It was everyone for themselves from here on out.  I had no weapon, she showed no mercy.  And Manoj watched triumphantly.

Still, losing has its advantages.  While I retreated to my bedroom to find a towel and dry clothes, the victors were left to mop up the aftermath.

Tonight will be the last supper I have as a member of Sherman House.  I’ve been asked to move to another house, Cornerstone, because of some necessary staff changes.  When I joined Sherman House in May, I wrote a reflection about my need to put down roots, having moved from place to place and room to room more than eighteen times since finishing high school.  I thought this would be my home for awhile.  Instead I find myself being uprooted from the soil and dropped into a new, albeit similar, environment.

Change is not something I naturally do very well.  So how can I embrace this move?  I believe that each L’arche home is full of both unique gifts and unique challenges, things you cannot experience as an outsider or a visitor, things that must be lived.  I know that I will grow in relationship with my new housemates at Cornerstone and that these roots will again find good soil in which to settle.  I know that I can again create home.

By far the most difficult part of this transition will be leaving the core members that I’ve built relationships with over the last four months.  Jean Vanier once said,

“We begin in fragility, we grow up, we are fragile and strong at the same time, and then we go into the process of weakening.  So the whole question of the human process is how to integrate strength and weakness… You become human by accepting your own vulnerability.”

By accepting the weaknesses and disabilities of those I live with, I have come face to face with my own.  Recognized that in some way we are all broken, we are all disabled.  There are no pretenses or expectations of perfection, my own or another’s.  They merely accept me as I am.

And in being accepted by others, I find myself better able to accept myself.  By discovering gifts among broken bodies, I begin to find my own.  In strength and weakness, I am whole.

My life has felt like chaos for the last week or two.

Yesterday, while trying to prepare for a birthday party for one of the other assistants:

– an assistant at another house had an emergency and needed one of us to go cover for them, leaving me alone to finish cooking and party prep

– we had a major leak during the afternoon thunderstorm (thanks to the workers who have been re-shingling our roof and left part of the roof exposed over the weekend)

– and while I was upstairs mopping up small lakes in the bedrooms, the lasagna burned, filling our whole house with smoke.

All just in time for the guests to arrive.

Sometimes I think I thrive in chaos, rushing from one disaster to another with efficiency and quick solutions, and truthfully, in the end the birthday party turned out great.  But chaos takes its toll on my well-being.  At the end of the night, there was little more I could do than lay on the couch beside Alice – the most empathetic and intuitive person I have ever met – and let her care for me.   After a few minutes of resting together, she got up to get a box of tissues, came over to me and insisted I remove my hat and glasses so she could (somewhat aggressively) dry my eyes.  I hadn’t been crying, but somehow she knew how much I wanted to, how heavy I felt.

In the chaos, I am not alone.

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