The challenge was to describe a moment spent with another L’Arche community member, and it was issued days after news of Tim Hollis’s death, so this is what came to mind. Tim’s funeral is today, 31 August. MB.
We got to know Tim and Marion Hollis quite well in those early days of L’Arche; they were almost part of the furniture, they came so often. It was good to witness how greatly they respected every core member and assistant, an example to us all. When we went on pilgrimage to Walsingham, they welcomed us to their home in Beccles, with its little oratory in the attic, lit by a custom-made glass roofing tile.
Two or three years after leaving L’Arche I was working in a London adult training centre and was asked to accompany a small group on holiday quite close to Beccles, so I wrote to ask if we might visit Tim and Marion; of course a warm welcome was extended.
After tea and visiting the oratory, Tim invited us for a voyage on the River Waveney, the southern end of the Norfolk Broads. Tim, Geoffrey Morgan and Jean had been in the Royal Navy together, and Tim now had his own boat, big enough to take us all.
Everyone was comfortably enjoying the trip when Tim asked the student beside him, ‘Mervyn, would you like to steer?’ Mervyn proudly took the wheel and soon grasped how to use landmarks to steer by. Everyone else got a turn, even Maurice.
I expected Tim to be wary of Eric, who spent all day head bent, looking down. Could he possibly steer a boat with eight people on board? Tim felt my tension, but said simply, ‘watch’. I watched. Eric stood at the wheel, hardly raising his head, but plying the course that Tim set him. Eric did not have the speech to say how he felt, but the pleasure and recognition he experienced were palpable.
That moment has informed so much of my work with people with learning and behaviour difficulties: so often they are not trusted and respected, even by those entrusted with their care, education and well-being.
It’s a bit late to tell Tim how much that one moment means to me still, but never too late to share such good news. Thank you Tim, and thank you, Eric.