When my inquisitive daughter was about 3 ½ years old, we had a conversation about perspective. We looked out our back door at the houses around and I asked her to count how many she could see. Three. Then we went to the second floor and I helped her count – seven. And then we went to the roof, looked at all the houses we could see and concluded it was more than she had numbers for. I told her something like “This is what perspective looks like when you get older, you know that everything fits into a larger picture and you are able to see more of it.”
Even for my very verbal daughter, this was mostly lost on her but I could see her trying to think about it. When I recently heard a Ten Percent Happier podcast with Father Gregory Boyle and he presented the most expansive view of love and its power to change that I’ve ever heard, I felt a little like my daughter trying to understand perspective. His view is so big and powerful, that it might take me years of practice to fully understand.
Father Gregory is a Jesuit priest whose work as a pastor in the poorest parish in Los Angeles that was also in the area with the highest gang activity led him to start Homeboy Industries. It’s a number of different businesses than serve to employ and train former gang members and serve the community.
“People change when we are cherished.” – Father Gregory BoyleTweet
Even though Father Gregory was talking about love in terms of gang intervention, a topic that has little intersection with my experience of life, his expansiveness offers a whole-hearted practice of love that I found mind blowing in its potential to change us from the inside out. Here’s how he described it in a nutshell:
“The practice – Catch yourself before you are judgmental. How do you stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than in judgment at how they carry it? You are catching yourself all the time.”Father Gregory Boyle
And when he was asked if he ever messes that up his reply was, “Only all the time.”
Providing more detail on the practice, Father Gregory described,
“So part of the invitation is to catch yourself. Our hard wiring would direct us to demonize. Demonizing is always the opposite of the truth. You are about to do it with the shooter in Uvalde. At no point are you cosigning on bad behavior. You are just saying two certain things. Everyone is unshakably good. We all belong to each other.
“Now let’s roll up our sleeves. How do we help people? How do we pay attention? How do we notice people before they buy high-powered weapons? How do we include people? How do we move people out of the isolation that depletes their sense of hope? How do we infuse people with hope for whom hope is foreign?”Father Gregory Boyle
Father Gregory just buried his 255th kid that died as a result of gang violence. And yet he still is touting this incredibly hopeful vision of how we belong to each other. The work he’s done over 40 years is phenomenal, heart-breaking and transformative. His take on burnout and how to avoid it was fascinating.
“You go to the margins not to make a difference, you go to the margins so that the folks there make you different. If you go to the margins to save the day, and rescue people, fix people or even to make a difference, it’s about you and it can’t be about you. So you burn out. You burn out not because you are so compassionate but because you made it about you.”Father Gregory Boyle
Like any athlete that has practiced his or her jump shot so many times that it looks easy in their hands, Father Gregory makes loving people no-matter-what sound simple. I know, as I suspect we all do, that it isn’t easy. But maybe that’s something that perspective teaches us – that simple ideas when practiced over and over again have amazing power to change.
What do you think about the power of love? Do we all belong to each other? Do people change when they are cherished?
For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com or follow me on Instagram @wynneleon
(featured photo from Pexels)