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  • It was the morning of my last day on vacation with the Arlington, Virginia L'Arche community - a group of people with and without intellectual disabilities who share life together as a family. I was with L'Arche as a summer volunteer. After a few weeks with the community, I was really starting to feel like I belonged at L'Arche, and that I had connected with everyone there.

    Except Fritz. He was the quietest person in the community. He responded to all of my questions with "Yeah," except when he didn't feel like responding at all. The only thing he liked to do with me was play checkers, but he had a hard time distinguishing my pieces from his, so our games didn't usually last long.

    I was so determined to make Fritz like me, but I had no idea how. He was thirty years my senior. We had no shared interests. We also had a hard time understanding each other, so conversation was limited.

    The morning of the last day of vacation, I heard a knock on my door. One of the assistants was letting me know that we would be eating breakfast together in ten minutes. Relieved to catch a few more moments of sleep, I rolled over in bed and closed my eyes.

    I opened them a few minutes later to find Fritz sitting calmly on the far edge of my bed. Nodding, he reached out to touch my head, repeating, "You fine. You fine. You fine." I realized that Fritz had come in to check on me, thinking I was sleeping late because I was sick. Laughing, I reassured him that I was fine, and stood up to walk with him to the breakfast table.

    And then it hit me. I didn't have to "make" Fritz like me. In one small act of tenderness, with two simple words, he showed me that he already did.

    I was just fine.
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