There was a young boy from Los Angeles who was repeatedly beaten by his mother every day of elementary school. He would wear three t-shirts- one to stop the blood from seeping through. The second was to hide the blood stains from the first shirt, and the third was worn to disguise any visibility of blood.
At age six his mother told him that he was a burden and implied that he should take away his life. At age nine he was placed in an orphanage by his birth mom who reported that she found him. Ninety days later his grandmother collected him and brought her back to her own home.
Jesuit and speaker, Father Gregory Boyle, shared this emotional story with approximately 900 students and faculty at the Byron Center last night. Father Boyle founded a successful rehab center called Homeboy Industries, which has given 1,500 gang members a second chance of living a violence-free life.
Father Boyle uses his compassion, kindness, and love for God to make a significant change in the lives of so many young men and women. As he quoted last night, “Our call [as human beings] is to stop throwing people away.” In his selfless behavior and undeniable compassion, Father Boyle has proved to us that this is indeed our call.
Father Boyle has touched many lives. The arrival of over one thousand gang members has given him a sense of hope that with kinship “there just might be lights out there that mean more than others.”
In his focus to spread kinship, Father Boyle has never denied a “homie.” He has welcomed him or her into Homeboy Industries (along with the many other businesses associated with it) with an open, warm heart. He has built a strong bond with each one of them, never denying them.
While Father Boyle continues to strengthen his relationships, he also knows that sometimes they can be short lived. He stated that last Friday he buried his 183rd gang member. The number of homies he has buried are mostly young men who have commonly been attacked and murdered by rival gangs who have not yet found a different route to living a happy life.
The young boy who was beaten by his mother every day of his childhood was able to find a way of escaping his old life and recreating a new one for himself. After getting involved in the wrong crowd, he eventually found Homeboy Industries. With Father Boyle’s help, he changed his life around and has allowed kinship to seep into his soul.
Now married and a father to three children, this homie is no longer living a life of hatred, crime and pain. In response to a question a women in the audience aksed, fighting to hold his tears back, he proclaimed, “I welcome my wounds. They are my friends. How can I help the wounded if I don’t welcome mine?”
As Father Boyle believes, kinship and service is mutual. We are in this together. As Christians and humans, we must welcome those who are wounded- who are hiding in the dark. Without compassion for one another, those who lay stranded in their wounds will be left alone.
For more information on how you can donate, please visit homeboyindustries.org.