This blog post comes from Ignatian Volunteer Rich Pozdol of Chicago and is reprinted with permission from the IVC Chicago Footprints blog from earlier this year.
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having dinner at Siam, my favorite Thai restaurant. We were having chicken pad thai, one of my favorite Thai dishes, and were talking about the violence that is part of everyday life in our city.
I told Father “Bo” that tragically one of Saint Margaret of Scotland’s graduates, where I am an IVC volunteer, was gunned down and killed last year. He was only a Sophomore.” What is the answer?” I asked Father “Bo”.
“It is a complex problem,” said Father “Bo”. “But I doubt that the answer is more surveillance cameras or gun laws. That does not get to the root problem.”
“So what is to be done?’ I asked.
“Are you familiar with Father Greg Boyle?” Father “Bo” asked.
“I am,” I responded. “He started Homeboy Industries.”
“Yes,” said Fr. “Bo” “Do you know of his book Tattoos on The Heart”?
“Yes,” I responded.
“Do you know where the title of the book comes from?” he asked.
“I don’t,” I said.
“Father Greg was talking to one of his Homeboys and he said something I think was very profound. He said that ‘jobs stop bullets’. When the Homeboy heard that he responded ‘Damn G , I think I will tattoo that on my heart.’ Think about it. Jobs help attack poverty and idleness at the same time.”
“My mom always said, ‘Idleness is the devil’s workshop.’ I suppose that is why I had lots of chores as a kid. By the way, I heard Father Boyle speak last year at Ignatian Spirituality Project’s annual Company Of Grace. He regaled us with stories that showed that his program really works. I think the key to making it work is what Father Boyle calls “exquisite mutuality”. There is no “them” and “us”; there is only “us”.”
“That sounds right to me” replied Father “Bo”. “It is all about social justice. Think of the impact if we had a thousand Homeboy Industries across the country. I see where it would have a dramatic impact on the guns and violence.”
Father “Bo” continued, “Think about when you brought home your first paycheck. How did you feel?”
“I was very proud. I felt I had entered the adult world. I was now able to help support my family,” I replied.
“We need to instill that sense of pride in our children . Villages, towns, and cities have to find ways to put our children to work during the summers, and throughout the year, working in parks, cleaning up vacant lots, and helping repair run down properties. Our country’s infrastructure is falling apart. There should be statewide and national programs to address this .We need to create literally millions of jobs for our kids. That is where we start.”
“I don’t think it can be done,” I said.
“It won’t be easy,” said Father “Bo”.
“It would require a revolution,” I said.
“Yes it would,” said Father “Bo” “So what do you think is the answer for IVCers?” asked Father “Bo”.
“My kids (at my service site) are certainly at risk. They live in an environment of violence and drugs. My current volunteer job is to help educate them so they can be employed and make a decent living.”
“It is a start. You need to spread that work. It is a force for change. Grow it,” replied Father.
“I see where the revolution can start with us,” I replied.
Excerpts from the Oscar Romero prayer “A Step Along the Way”:
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.