Finding compassion in service

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Greg Boyle shows the unity in humanity

“There’s a vision that brought you here… And that’s a vision of a world that’s better than this,” Greg Boyle, S.J., said Monday night looking out at the Wool Ballrooms, the room packed wall to wall with spectators.

Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program in the country. His organization consists of a collection of services and businesses aimed at helping former gang members reconcile their past and build a brighter future through education, counseling, job training and many other services, all offered at no charge.

He passed on the insight he has gained throughout his time at Homeboy Industries through the comical and somber tales of some of the people he has worked with over the years. With each story he illustrated the deep human connection that formed between people that are often considered to be worlds apart.

Ultimately Boyle’s message was one of unity and love. He asked the audience to reach out to the marginalized members of society and to find the underlying connections in every human interaction.

“If you stand on the margins and look at your feet, you’ll notice the margins get erased,” he said.

According to Boyle, the people working in his organization benefit just as much as those the organization serves in that they are given an opportunity to experience

“I defy you to define who is the service provider and who is the service recipient,” he said of his work with Homeboy Industries. “It’s mutual.”

The foundations for Homeboy Industries started to come together in 1988 when Boyle saw a flood of kids killed by gang violence. Since the first child he buried as a result of gang violence in 1988, Boyle has counted the number of young people that he buried, totaling 183 last month.

“I count because they don’t count, because they don’t matter to people,” he said.

He claimed that the reason many gang intervention programs don’t work was an improper diagnosis.

“Kids aren’t seeking anything when they join gangs. They’re fleeing something,”

Boyle closed the night with an appeal to companionship and appreciation.

“SLU is not the place you’ve come to. It is always the place you’re meant to go from,” he said. “We go from here to create a community of kinship such that God in fact might recognize it.”