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Reflecting on Community – Advent 2023

by Ben Smith, Seattle Mercy, ’23-’24

When I accepted the position as a JV, I looked forward to the community I would be living in.  Before orientation, I considered Seattle to be that community.  I googled all the things that I could do and places I would visit.  I thought of community as a place, the setting for my service.  As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong.  I have learned that community is all about people.   

My first community is Mercy House.  My community mates, Shannon, Tess, Araceli, Alec, and Cambrie, provide me with freedom and support.  I have the freedom to continually grow as a JV and as a person.  I can always find support from the Mercy House community – sometimes that support includes reminding me how I can do better. Although hard to hear, that support may be the most impactful.  My community mates are always available to me for a talk or a simple hello, which makes me feel more present.  They are also there for me at the more challenging moments like when I am attempting to cook dinner.  In Seattle, I am more than 2000 miles from home.  Mercy House has become a second home and the Mercy community has become my JV family.  

Ben has embraced his creativity at L’Arche, learning to make candles.

The next community I found is with my beloved service site, L’Arche.  L’Arche creates meaningful spaces for adults with disabilities.  I have learned that communities thrive when those who are on the margins are included and their gifts are recognized and honored.  I believe we all have gifts and communities can help us find them. While assisting others, L’Arche has given me the opportunity to explore my creativity in ways I could not have imagined. I came to L’Arche with stick figures being the highlight of my artistic skills.  Now, I am a candle maker and a weaver.  I have learned how creative activities with those at L’Arche build connections and a shared purpose.  My creativity can shine in impactful ways.   Community life is an opportunity to become your best self and support others to do the same. 

I believe community is about building a space where every person’s gifts are celebrated. With a world currently so divided, I look forward to an Advent that allows people to open their hearts to new communities filled with wonderful people and and exciting experiences. I am looking forward to growing deeper connections with others and with myself.  I look forward to an Advent where we further reflect on the Jesuit cause and experience growth within ourselves and in our diverse communities. 

Both L’Arche and JVCNW challenged me to imagine community differently.  I have learned that it is the differences, not the sameness, that make communities strong.  Let us all carry this thought throughout Advent so that we may help others experience true belonging in community. 

Ben Smith is currently serving as a JV in Seattle, WA at L’Arche Noah Sealth, a community for those with and without physical disabilities. Ben is originally from Glen Lyon, PA and graduated from King’s College in Wilkes Barre, PA. Ben is pictured at the L’Arche Benefit this fall with Shannon and Tess, members of his community.

Looking for Advent Resources? Our staff has compiled some you may find helpful here.

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