Along with his or her particular history of physical suffering, each person comes to Joseph’s House with their own inner pain and loneliness. Each of us yearns for communion and belonging, and, at the same time, we fear it. Love is what we most want, yet it is also what we fear the most. We are all so ambivalent about love and belonging. And yet, the community of Joseph’s House can become a powerful source of healing for all who come here.
Our way of life is inspired by Jean Vanier and the communities of L’Arche: those who can, lend their strength to the person who needs to borrow it, so that the most vulnerable among us can live as fully as possible and share in community life. Living this way also changes the very nature of those who are strong.
At Joseph’s House, our dining room table is the first place of belonging. Every morning our community eats a homemade breakfast together. At the table, we’re not nurses, someone dying of AIDS or cancer, or volunteers – we’re just folks, people sharing a meal. We pour the coffee and pass the pancakes. It doesn’t take long for us to become friends and for the newcomer to find his or her own place here.
We also deepen our belonging at community meetings held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. We used to say, “At Joseph’s House there are only three rules: no drugs or alcohol, no violence, and attendance at community meetings.” These days we invite rather than insist that people attend, but the gift of regular time together as a community is no less valued. In the words of the old gospel song – it “binds us together” to hear from every person regularly, to share our ups and downs, to see with our own eyes, how each of us is doing and to have a predictable time and place to work out a grievance, celebrate a birthday, or honor the memory of a housemate who has died.
Community is surely a place where our limitations and fears will be painfully revealed to us. It is also a safe place where we can learn to accept ourselves and others as we are, broken, yes, but loved. In community we can grow to greater openness, courage and compassion; we have a mission together. At Joseph’s House community can become the place of liberation and growth.