“For the measure of our compassion lies not in our service to those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them.”
Excerpt from Fr. Greg Boyle’s 2005 Loyola Marymount University commencement address:
“It is the privilege of my life to have worked for the last two decades in Boyle Heights and to watch thousands of men and women gang members to walk into our office at Homeboy Industries seeking hope of a first chance or a second one. Seeking employment, counseling, a variety of services of free tattoo removal. We removed 1,200 tattoos last year on the premises so if anyone in the class of 2005 needs this service, see me afterwards. We run five businesses where enemy gang members work side-by-side with each other. Our newest one opened up April 14. It’s called Homegirl Café and Catering. A bunch of homegirls working with each other have records and tattoos. Waitresses with attitude. We’re working on that.
“The day after it opened, I got an anonymous voice mail, hate mail. Over the last 20 years we’ve been accustomed to that at Homeboy Industries. Death threats, bomb threats, hate voice mail. In fact at one point we were thinking of changing our after-hours message to ‘Thank you for calling Homeboy Industries. Your bomb threat is important to us.’
“So I got this anonymous message. The woman was quite upset. She said, ‘I hate the fact that you named this restaurant ‘Homegirl Café.’ What a disgrace. We hate Homeboy Industries. You’ve brought dishonor to the city.’
“It’s an idea that’s taken root in the world. And it’s at the root of all that’s wrong with it. The idea is that there are some lives out there that matter less than other lives. Martin Luther King said of the church what could well be said at this moment of you and of this institution, LMU is not the place you come to, it is in fact the place you go from. To stand against forgetting that we belong to each other.
“Mother Theresa diagnosed the world’s ills correctly I think when she said our problem is that we’ve just forgotten that we belong to each other. You stand against forgetting, you stand against the idea that there are some lives that matter less than other lives. You leave this place not just to be men and women for others. That’s just the beginning. That’s not the goal. Jesus wasn’t a man for others, he was one with others. There’s a world of difference in that. You see yourself connected to those over on the margins and left out. You stand against forgetting that we belong to each other.”