Feels Like Home

By Peter Schenke
First published on August 10th 2017

LarcheOnce I read in a book, that there are indigenous tribes in the America’s that have the view that you can have two (or more) families. Your birth family, which is your mom, dad, siblings, with grandparents, uncles, aunts, maybe cousins and so on. You will always be, in one way or the other, part of this family you were born into, if you know your parents and this family or not, if you grew up with them or not, if you love them or hate them, if you want to live with or live without them, if you want to be close or rather keep distance to them or anything in between. The tie to this family is powerful, because through them you received your life.

But then, they say, there is also the family you can consciously choose in this life. You might feel comfortable with certain people in your local community, village or your circle of friends. For members of these indigenous tribes, this means that you might start to spend lots of time with those people; you might eat meals with them or even sleep in their house. These people might take care of you or treat you like their child or siblings and you might treat them like parents or brothers and sisters. And they will eventually feel like and become a family to you.

I also heard in some cultures it is normal, that it is the responsibility of everyone to raise the village’s children. It is a joined effort and a shared joy. ”It takes a whole village to raise a child”.

At L’Arche I see and experience similar things. As my partner Tina and I started our little family here at L’Arche Antigonish, we experienced how people at L’Arche slowly became like a family to us. With oceans dividing us from our own dear families and our ancestral lands, L’Arche grew to be like an anchor for us. We made many friends. Some of these friends we got to know so well, that they really started to feel like family to us. During the pregnancies of our children, everyone at L’Arche was excited and anxiously waiting with us. Now already more than six years ago Carol Anne went with Tina for an ultra-sound in Halifax and saw Emmanuel waiving at her from inside Tina’s womb; an unforgettable event for both of them!

When our children were born, it was mostly people from L’Arche visiting us in the hospital and helping us out at home with cooking meals, washing dishes or just simply hanging out with us. Mary-Anne MacKinnon loved to hold the little Emmanuel (and later the little Clara) with much care, or let him have a nap on her bed. It was people from our community, Michael Boddy, Beth Wolters, Jeff Murray and Steffi Drechsler, who became our children’s official godparents, with many other unofficial godparents from all the different houses.

Since the beginning Michael Boddy always has been watching our children well and helping them dress up properly for the winter’s cold and stay safe on the Hope/Dixie driveway. Joe White became like a crazy grandpa to them, who used to tickle and chase them around and with whom they loved to laugh. They also love Carol Peters and truly cared for him, when he moved to the nursing home. They still love to visit Carol and Joe and join them on their nursing home beds, waiting patiently to be blessed with their beautiful smiles.

The kids also like to play tag with Innocent at Dixie. They know that Elizabeth Abler is teaching them how to use the i-pad. They like to get tickled and laugh with Elizabeth Boucher, who additionally likes to give them little gifts and treats (including pink gum).

Sometimes, after a long day at school, Emmanuel picks up a treat at the Horizons day-program and then makes music with people at the Studio, or wrestles with Quentin, until both of them are sweating. Christopher and Emmanuel might spend half an hour teasing each other or Emmanuel simply listens and smiles about what Cory has to say that day.

We are surprised how well our two children know everyone at L’Arche. Often they are faster than us connecting with new assistants. It is nice to see how the German assistants help us teach our children German. Sometimes our little Clara likes to help set the supper table at Covenant House.

It is beautiful to see how everyone allows our children and us to be part of their life. There would be so many more people and relationships to mention, but those people will know. Tina, me and the kids feel very blessed, that we are so accepted in the programs and the houses. We are thankful to be able to experience this special connection that we feel we have so many people here at L’Arche Antigonish. Thanks for being a family to us!


to “Feels Like Home”

  1. Karen Stewart says:

    Peter, this is beautiful, you made me tear up. Your children are very special.

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