** I apologize for the false post!**
This past weekend, my family hosted 4 French women associated with the L’Arche organization, a group founded in France by Jean Vanier in 1964, and is geared towards aiding adults with learning and physical disabilities. As none of them spoke English, it was a perfect time for me and my mother to use our French. To be fair, my mother did put in our application that we could host French-speaking women, so it just so happened that all four of our guests were French.
What struck me the most was that one of the ladies is a woman with Down Syndrome. She was highly functioning, but still needed to occasional help from one of the ladies. She was happy and truly excited to be here in the US. She lamented how she was missing France’s version of Mother’s Day, and wanted to buy her tickets to a concert in America (we had to explain that concert tickets in America was a beautiful idea, but not entirely practical).
It was an amazing weekend, and I felt truly blessed to be able to be a part of such an effort. We met with the organization again on Wednesday night for an interfaith session on learning and physically handicapped people. My mother spoke on the Islamic perspective, adding a few personal touches, and we were able to meet with 3/4 of the ladies who stayed with us over the weekend.
When I first met the group of ladies, they were all impressed with my French and couldn’t believe that I’ve never been to France. They couldn’t believe that I spoke with no accent (aside from French, of course) without having studied in France. That was a definite boost to my ego 😉 However, what really struck me was listening to the woman with Down Syndrome and marveling at her ability to speak a ‘foreign language.’ It took me a bit before I could appreciate that she wasn’t speaking a foreign language.. she was speaking her own. This woman with Down Syndrome spoke better French than me, and her language skills are probably better than mine will ever be. It was something that really made me appreciate how limited I can be by not being open to the fact that just because something is foreign for me, it’s not for others. I had to struggle a bit to get my message across, as it’s been a while since I’ve spoken French, but I was able to convey everything I wished to say. It was funny for me to see how my mom would go from speaking French to the ladies to speaking to me in Arabic (she usually only speaks to me in English) and how I would accidentally speak to my sister in French, even though she doesn’t understand.
Seriously, the organization is a great one and they’re going to be opening their doors to a new branch in Decatur, GA on July 1st. Here is their website again, so be sure to check them out!