This has been such a great trip!!!! There have been so many things that have amazed me, have challenged me, and have made me open my eyes to a completely new way of thinking about homelessness, gangs and education, especially in areas such as LA, where there are many that aren’t citizens, and many that don’t speak English.
It is easy for you to make assumptions about these people. It is simple to look at someone and make something up in your mind about what they are about, what they do, and who they are. We are wrong. SO wrong. We had the absolute privilege of getting a tour of Homeboy Industries, an organization that takes in “gangsters” and attempts to push them into a much brighter future, that they are all extremely capable of. Founded by Father Greg Boyle, who I DESPERATELY want to meet, this organization has changed the lives of SO many lives. Our tour guide walked us through her story, highlighting her past life, having children, losing them and through Homeboy, was able to get her life back together, and eventually has made contact with her children, and has relations with them now after more than ten years. How amazing is that???
This trip has brought me so many new perspectives, and has taught me so much. I, for time’s sake, will talk about three things………………..the women in this neighborhood, Father Greg, and Dolores Mission School.
The women in this neighborhood, WOW!!! I cannot believe what good they have done for their home and for their community. About 25 years ago, this neighborhood of Boyle Heights was at the “height” (punny) of crime and gangs. There had been so many shootings, resulting in so many deaths of friends and families. The mothers and friends of mothers in this neighborhood decided they had enough, and made a stand. Because their families were so in danger and their children were in danger, they started standing on the corners, monitoring what was happening in the neighborhoods.
Also, they kept their doors open in the event that a shooting broke out, making their homes safe havens for those close by to get to safety. FURTHERMORE, (this is CRAZY) when they would hear gun shots, as a group, they would all walk down the street and investigate, which made the gangs split up and leave. WOW…….how brave these women are. I couldn’t believe the perseverance. For YEARS they would do this, day after day, standing up against the violence and the danger that they were putting the community in. I am in awe of their bravery, inspired by their commitment to this community, and privileged that I have been able to meet these wonderful people and hear their journey.
Father Greg!!!! I WANT TO MEET YOU!!!!! What an amazing man of God. I cannot believe how much he has done for this neighborhood, and for so many outside of this. It all started with talking. When he heard guns, he went to them, talking to the sources. Most would be like, “What are you thinking??” HAHA!!! But what a big person it takes to be able to walk in the face of danger and try to fix it, rather than running away from it. He genuinely tried to get to know all of these people, and to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Whether they are making the choice to, or whether they are born into it, or whether they are stuck where they are, he was willing to find out and to make sure that they knew that there was someone that cared for them. I cannot even imagine how difficult that could have been. But, it has been for the very best, as he is has created an AMAZING place for these gangsters to go and try to make a future for themselves. They are offered jobs, they are given treatment, and they are given a fresh new start toward the futures that they are meant to lead. I admire this man, and have bought his book (you should too…..Tattoos on the Heart……..Amazon.com it) to remember and reflect on what it is like to be persistent in the face of danger, and in the name of God and what is good and right.
I said I would talk about education, but Andrew will instead, because he wanted to, and because I am talking too much and I need to go back to 1st grade (I know, right??). Of course, I mean in Dolores School, I get to help out the 1st graders……SOOOO CUTE and SOOOO smart!!!! LOVE IT!!!