News - Calling: Receiving Little Gifts

Calling: Receiving Little Gifts

By Andrew Nelson '09


"It is a gift to be close to people who are dear to the heart of God," reflects Andrew Nelson '09 of his call to participate in the L'Arche community, a place where persons with intellectual disabilities and persons without intellectual disabilities live together. We too can benefit from Andrew's insights.

Andrew NelsonThe "Little" Way

While studying at Greenville College, two defining activities helped me discern my vocation. The first was the daily practice of morning prayer at St. Paul’s Free Methodist Church. The second was tutoring youth at the Simple Room, an after school program where college students like myself frequently volunteer. These two experiences coalesced into a vocation that St. Therese of Lisieux best describes as “the little way”— drawing close to Jesus through the everyday, ordinary tasks given to us. In my case at Greenville, this consisted of the gift of praying in community and the invitation to care for vulnerable youth.

After graduation, I continued searching out the little way during my studies at Duke Divinity School. Toward the end of my time at Duke, the opportunity to join L’Arche, a community of people with and without intellectual disabilities, arrived as a gift. Four years later, I happily continue along the little way of my vocation in L’Arche.

Where the Ordinary and Extraordinary Intersect

In order to describe this vocation, I must elaborate on how the ordinary and extraordinary intersect in this community. At L’Arche, I share a home with four men who have intellectual disabilities. Daily life in our home requires much responsibility of me. For example, I cook, clean, transport the others, assist them with hygiene and administer medication. None of these daily tasks appears very grand, but slowly, as I go about my life in L’Arche, day after day, year after year, the people in my house and in the larger community show me the many kinds of gifts that those with intellectual disabilities have to offer.

Gifts Revealed

A defining mark of L’Arche’s mission is the centrality of mutual relationships between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Giving and receiving characterize these relationships and reveal one another’s gifts. Some of the gifts manifest themselves through the simplicity of laughter, compliments and a sense of wonder. Other gifts require personal transformation before we receive them. We find, for instance, that to perceive the patience of a person with an intellectual disability, we must first learn to be patient. In L’Arche, the “disabled” are often the teachers, showing us first hand how to receive our lives as a gift from God. It is a gift to be close to people who are dear to the heart of God.

As I go about the mundane tasks of sustaining a household in L’Arche, the extraordinary way my housemates draw me closer to God transforms the “ordinary.” Following St. Therese of Lisieux again, this is a little way to live, but it is also a short path to the kingdom of God.

Pictured below, Andrew and the L'Arche community of which he is a part.

LArche Group

GC Vision: We inspire our students to embrace God’s call. Go here to share your story about calling.

Together Inspired-sm

This story was published on September 15, 2016

comments powered by Disqus
315 E. College Avenue
Greenville, Illinois 62246-1145
800.345.4440 / 618.664.7100
Contact Us © 2000-18 Greenville University. All rights reserved.
Greenville University is authorized to operate as a postsecondary educational institution by the Illinois Board of Higher Education
Accreditation | IBHE Complaint Form