A few weeks ago a friend passed me the name of a fellow named Jean Vanier because they thought I might enjoy the story of how he came to found the L'Arche Communities. Here's an excerpt from a book of his that I picked up...
I have had the occasion to visit quite a number of asylums and psychiatric hospitals in France and in other countries. It can be very painful to go into certain hospitals, to see men and women crying out for love, roaming around with nothing to do, hitting their heads on the floor, living in a world of dream and psychosis. Some places smell of urine or disinfectant. If you have had the privilege of penetrating into some of these places, you will have seen unbearable pain. It is difficult to be present there.
Many people in our modern world are living in unbearable situations. I was told that just a few weeks ago a new place was opened for people in Boston. Every evening they line up in order to be admitted for the night at the armory building. The next morning, after a cup of coffee, they are put back into the streets. Then, they roam around all day until the next evening. Many of them have been discharged from psychiatric hospitals or big institutions and have nowhere else to go. There is much anger, deep depression and intense pain inside them. When such pain becomes too much, then people tend to slip into a world of dream. Reality is just too painful. The world of dream or psychosis can in some way, be easier to bear.
Our L'Arche communities are also places of pain becuase they are founded on people who have been through a great deal of anguish. Today, in richer countries, hospitals and asylums may be cleaner, but the same men and women are still there crying out for a home and for love. Sometimes these people have been put in residences, but frequently these residences are not a home either and they are not well accepted by the neighbors.
For twenty-five years now I have had the privilege of living with men and women with disabilities. I have discovered that even though a person may have severe brain damage, that is not the greatest source of his or her greatest pain. The greatest pain is rejection, the feeling that nobody really wants you "like that". The feeling that you are seen as ugly, dirty, a burden, of no value. That is the pain I have discovered in the hearts of our people.
Another moving discovery I made when I began to live with Raphael and Philip was of their deep cry for communion. This was a cry for love and friendship; it flowed from their loneliness and inner pain. You have surely experienced that too if you have visited people in institutions. Suddenly, you are surrounded by men and women saying to you (at least through the look in their eyes): "Will you be my friend? Am I important to you? Do I have any value?" Some of these people may seem to be hiding away in a corner of the room, hiding behind the bars of self-hatred or in a world of dream and psychosis. Still others might be hitting their heads on the wall. But in each one of them there is that same deep cry for love, friendship and communion. At the same time, in many of them there is also the deep fear that nobody can really love them, that nobody really wants them, because they are "dirty," "evil," "no good".
My experience has shown that when we welcome people from this world of anguish, brokeness and depression, and when they gradually discover that they are wanted and loved as they are and that they have a place, then we witness a real transformation -- I would even say "resurrection". Their tense, angry, fearful, depressed body gradually becomes relaxed, peaceful and trusting. This shows through the expression on the face and through all their flesh. As they discover a sense of belonging, that they are part of a "family," then the will to live begins to emerge. I do not believe it is of any value to push people into doing things unless this desire to live and grow has begun to emerge.
Source: From Brokeness to Community
I thought it was worth dragging that name into this space because it's possible that those who are seeking alternatives to hospitalized care might be able to find care for themselves or a loved one within a community setting, such as L'Arche. If any of you should be aware of other community type settings, please do share the link."