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Communication Between Equals

Weekly Inspirational L’Arche Stories – June 8, 2011 (to subscribe Click Here)

bettyI started at the Woodery, a vocational program at L’Arche Daybreak. I knew nothing about wood, however, I did know American Sign Language and immediately narrowed in on Betty (who uses ASL to communicate) as someone I would probably hit it off with! I had visions of us chatting and signing back and forth with the machines blaring in the background.

Little did I know–she wasn’t interested! We worked side by side and sat together for lunch, but she wouldn’t respond to a single offer! I discussed work and joked that break time wasn’t coming soon enough, but my efforts were to no avail. Nil. None. Nothing.

Finally, after three weeks, I received my first gesture from Betty. When a van pulled up outside, she got my attention, pointed at the van and signed the letter “E” indicating that her co-worker Ellen’s van was here, with her fingers folded down and thumb tucked in. I cannot express the joy that I felt in that moment. Connection. A moment of someone making herself known and being willing to take a chance and dialogue with me.

This situation was unique in the sense that Betty was not dependant on me. In my past social service jobs with other agencies, it has been in the person’s best interest to comply with me, to answer questions or fill out paperwork. At the Woodery, however, I was beginning to understand what it meant to develop relationships built on reciprocity even without any woodworking expertise.

– Janna Payne, L’Arche Daybreak

Visit our Woodery page.