It’s a radical kinship Christmas. And not just because I am buying all Homeboy Industries swag for friends and family: Hoodies, beanies, books, t-shirts, gift baskets, even a signed lithograph from Shepard Fairey. Stock up at homeboyindustries.org and put a little meaning in the season plus nothing says instant street cred like a “Jobs not Jails” T-shirt.
Father Greg Boyle who started the program in 1988 spoke at Hanna Boys Center last week and it was amazing. He’s a quiet man whose happy place is in the middle of a group of ex-gang members. He doesn’t believe in messages but content, he quotes Mother Theresa and the Dali Lama and he could easily kill as a stand up comedian.
I mean the guy is funny, telling stories about homies like Frank who tattooed, “F*** the World” in big block letters on his forehead and was having trouble finding a job (Homeboy tattoo removal treats 100 patients per day, the most in the world), or the homie who counseled father Greg to use self-defecating humor when speaking to crowds (Father Greg’s response, “No Shit”).
He goes from laughter to tears and back to laughter in a single story. Check the documentary “G-dog” or the Ted talk or head down to LA and visit one of the many businesses and programs.
He brought Daniel and Jimmy with him to Hanna, 25 and 27 they both were looking for love and connection in life and found it in gangs and drugs. Daniel first did meth with his mom at 14 and a year ago got tired of being tired and found father Greg. Jimmy lost his mother to gun violence, a wakeup call that led him to Homeboy. They like to tease father Greg but their love is very apparent because they know he has saved their lives. “Dislodge the backpack of dysfunction with tenderness.” For someone who doesn’t believe in messages, his message is very powerful.
What saves the homeboys can save us all. Radical kinship is the answer not only to how we treat each other but how we relate to the world. If we obliterate the us and them and turn it into just us then we create a community of caring. If you look at the day’s headlines you can see what separation is doing to us. If you have been awake the last two years you can see and feel daily what hate is doing to us.
Let’s start the Radical Kinship Butterfly Effect right here and now. C’mon, it’s the holidays, what better time to connect to strangers, friends, family and community?
Begin with random acts of giving: cookies to the crossing guards you drive past every day, a bottle of champagne for Adrian who finally moved Operation Bicycle out of the Teen Center basement, wine for the Sonoma Golf Club helpers who were so nice and accommodating to the girls golf team this year. A letter of thanks to your favorite teacher or community member. Give often, give freely, give from the heart, but just give.
Plus, when you give you get. It will make you feel good, it will move you in the right direction, it will flood your brain with endorphins. You will want to do more acts of radical kinship. You will see the surprised smile from the crossing guard when you give her the cookies and it will make you smile. Then you will wave the next time you drive by creating instant community.
And let’s continue to support people like Father Boyle. His program has grown to a 20 million dollar yearly enterprise and fear of meeting payroll is the only thing that keeps him up at night.
But don’t just support with money, support the message.