“Home is where the Heart is”
September 2016– Annika Carbacio, L’Arche Assistant —
Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, once said “Being at home is one of the most fundamental needs of the human spirit”. Vanier could not be more accurate with his words; after all it was he who invited two men with disabilities to share life—and a home—with him back in 1965. This quote also happens to be printed on the back of the very first t-shirt I received from L’Arche Boston North as a welcoming gift to community. I came to community in February of 2015 and have had the pleasure of living at Assisi House. I have also had the privilege of sharing time at all four houses, and soon I will be living in and sharing time at our new house that is being built. This recent change has caused me to reflect on my time here in L’Arche Boston North and I am amazed at how easy it has become for me to be at home here. Having been a self-proclaimed “homebody”, the idea of making a home for myself in an unfamiliar place seemed daunting at first, but I quickly learned that the phrase “home is where the heart is” could not be more true, especially in a community such as L’Arche.
I was born and raised in Jamesville, a small town ten minutes outside of Syracuse, New York, coming from a small family that was tightly knit. I attended Le Moyne College in Syracuse and although I lived on campus, I was still fifteen minutes from my family home. I spent two and a half years with the L’Arche Syracuse community before I decided that I wanted—no, needed—something more out of my L’Arche experience. It was in November of 2014 that I made the bold decision to apply for a position as a live-in assistant with the L’Arche Irenicon community, as it was called at the time. By December I found out I had the position, and before I knew it my car was packed and my family and I were on our way to Haverhill, Massachusetts.
The Boston area had always felt like home to me since my aunt and uncle lived in the area when I was growing up. My boyfriend of almost six years also lives in the Boston area, so frequent visits to his family home gave me the ability to become accustomed to the city. But the idea of actually living near Boston had always seemed like a fantasy until the opportunity arose for me to come to community.
The day I arrived at Assisi House, my new home, I had a mix of emotions. I had already become homesick for the familiarity of Jamesville and for the life I had known for almost twenty four years. But I kept reminding myself of where I was and since I was already familiar with L’Arche, I saw it more as moving in with extended family. I had visited Assisi House for dinner after my interview so I had already met the core members I would be living with, but it was Donald who immediately remembered me and greeted my family and I with hugs. As I was unpacking my things and setting up my room it became time for the rest of community to come to Assisi for Lenten Soup dinner. My family and I made our way into the living room where we were greeted by a core member from Gandhi House named Fran, who asked me curiously in her thick Boston accent “Aah (are) you gonna be the one working with us?” (side note: at the time I was hired as a live in at Assisi but would be sharing time at Gandhi). When I said yes she took my hand, led me downstairs and said “lemme introduce yah to the rest of the crew!” I couldn’t help but laugh at the warm welcome I had just received and knew right away Fran and I were going to be friends. I also knew right then that L’Arche Irenicon was where I needed to be.
It has been almost a year and a half since that first day at Assisi and all together I have spent four wonderful years in L’Arche as a whole. I am still in touch with members of the community in Syracuse and still consider them good friends. I consider all of the core members here my family, especially since my biological family is so far away. The core members are what really make the houses “homes”; each day I see the love and appreciation through the smiles on their faces. It has been an honor to be able to share time with every single one and to build relationships that I know will last a lifetime.