A Message from George Ducharme and Pat Beeman, Co-Directors of Communitas, Inc.
Communitas is an organization with a single goal. It responds to the call of people with disabilities who desire to live life fully and free in their local community and are having a rough time of it. Communitas “walks with” a person with a disability and those who care a great deal about him/her by helping to form a circle of support – a circle of friends – that will bring into reality the dream or goal of that person. By listening to and emphasizing the gifts and abilities of a person, while not denying the limitations and obstacles, Communitas facilitates the creative “solution finding” activities of a circle of support. These gatherings of friends are celebrations of what is possible in the sometimes long, hard journey of overcoming obstacles and taking advantage of opportunities.
Since its founding in 1988, Communitas has published several papers, books and a DVD written by and with many of the people with whom it walks. All of these seek to share what is being learned on a daily basis as we in Communitas become better at what we strive to do: to listen, join together and act over the “long walk.”
Then when a call came to us one day in the late Spring of l992, we knew what we had to do. We went to a courtroom; we sat, we listened, we observed and we got increasingly uneasy as all of our preconceptions of our justice system were shattered.
We then joined with many others in creating a remarkable group of people called “The Friends of Richard Lapointe.” Now we were challenged to walk the talk in a completely new way. We were challenged to participate in a circle of friends for someone who was wrongfully convicted of felony murder and sent to prison for Life plus 60 years.
This experience and challenge has solidified and deepened our understanding of the importance of “walking with” a person or family for the “long walk” with no strings attached – no conditions.
Walking with a person in all the ups and downs of life lived in community is difficult. Walking with a person who has been falsely accused, convicted, and incarcerated is a particularly difficult walk. But, as is true in every circle of friends (support) in which we have had the honor of being included, it is a particularly authentic and honest experience to walk together with others.
Today, we, as a circle of friends who have joined with a larger circle, are dusting ourselves off after every horrible experience with the justice system. We keep going. We support the tireless efforts of our lawyers, Centurion Ministries. We are heartened by their efforts and we are comforted because they never take a case until they are convinced that their client is innocent. So we move on and we continue our scheduled visits with Richard in prison.
We will continue until one day Richard will join his own circle of friends to continue the long walk of his life fully included in his community. Then the passionate call to celebration and gratitude will overcome all the difficulties of the past l6 years.
Submitted January 2008