Of all of the people who have influenced me – amazing friends and family who have made my life journey immensely fun – my biggest teacher and influencer has been my friend Maiki.
I decided to move to Canada five years ago. Alone. I had just finished university and was excited to go on this adventure that I had been dreaming of since I was very young.
My first year in Canada was challenging personally, emotionally, and professionally. I felt lost, alone and like I had failed at trying to create a path for myself. Canada wasn’t for me. I had decided to give up and go home, but after talking with my family, they persuaded me to try one last time. So, begrudgingly I did.
Shortly after, I met a family who was looking for a companion for their daughter, Maiki. I had never supported anyone in that way and was very nervous, but I took the challenge and moved in with them.
On our first day together, Maiki brought me along to L’Arche to spend the day together at the Day Program; we danced, we wore silly wigs and costumes, she introduced me to her friends and let me help her with her favourite activity at the end of the day: yoga.
On that day, and over the past 4 years, Maiki has shown me a side of friendship I’ve never experienced before. We have laughed together, we have disagreed with each other, at times we were inseparable and other times we took space from each other. But what’s been constant is that she has been at the centre – and the reason behind – every important milestone I have experienced and achieved since I met her. She has been there to celebrate the happy times, and has hugged and comforted me during the sad ones.
Thanks to her friendship, jokes, tenderness, laughter and unconditional love I was able to find myself. She taught me how to see the gifts in each person and to never miss an opportunity to show them my appreciation. She helped me discover my purpose and has given me memories that I will treasure for the rest of my days.
Maiki has been my most important teacher and the most beautiful soul I’ve been blessed to meet. She has changed my life and made it 1,000 times better, and she did it all without saying a word.
~ Valentina Alvarez is the interim Day Program Leader at L’Arche Daybreak. She and Maiki Hess have danced as part of the L’Arche Daybreak Spirit Movers liturgical dance troupe. Valentina wrote this article for the “Growing as Servant Leaders” Bubble of the Month Newsletter, an initiative of L’Arche Canada. To read the full newsletter, visit the L’Arche Canada Meeting Ground.