For anyone who lives in Los Angeles I'd be stunned if you haven't heard of Father Greg Boyle and the work that he's done over the last 20 years helping to get predominately East L.A. Latino/a's out of gangs. He's a pretty amazing guy. I heard this story on an NPR podcast the other day and rediscovered him. There are several things that tugged at my heartstrings. First of all, this guy is making a difference. He's focused his life's work on helping gang members go legit. Giving them choices, options, job-training -- stuff that makes a difference. What he's done with Homeboy Industries is terrific. It's a start. It's a model that should be replicated - not just for former gang members but for anyone looking for another option, an opportunity. I suggest you check out their website because there are many ways - as a consumer - that you can support Homeboy Industries. Anything from buying a t-shirt to hiring them to cater an event.
Another thing that struck me is how old school Boyle is in his approach to being a Priest. I think the whole notion of being a Christian has been tarnished by the Evangelical / Fundamentalist movement & MonkeyBoy. The whole of American Christianity has been polluted by greedy blowhards and idiots who use positions of authority to spew hatred, cast judgements & paint very small views of the world. It's sad to me that Christianity has become so politicized and tarnished and the very old school approach to what it means to be a community leader like a priest, a minister, or a pastor seems to have gotten lost.
I was moved by Boyle's old school, community-based approach to his parishoners. As he says, he tells parables. What I loved about them was that they're not heavy-handed hell & damnation fear-based parables. They are positive, relevant stories about ethics, morals, choices, dilemmas that are rooted in Biblical tales but are based in present day and often about specific situations. He's not preaching to his people about idealized or generic issues - he's talking about real choices, real situations, everyday dilemmas. This guy knows his audience and he's making a difference.
If you have a chance, listen to the NPR podcast. There are so many moving moments in the piece but it's also incredibly inspirational. Over the course of 20 years Boyle has helped thousands of people change their lives. I guess why this story stands out to me is that in the maelstrom of negative, awful, horrible stories that flood the news channels here's one that made me feel great. For that reason, you should listen to it. And who knows, it might also inspire you to do something - anything - to make a difference in the world.