HeartNote, January 14, 2019: "And there wasn't a single murderer who took my class."

I borrow liberally from Greg Boyle, the founder of HomeBoy Industries. Throughout the months and years, when I get stuck or I have a run into a big granite wall of Writer's Block, I will plumb the depths of Father Boyle’s archive and place it here. His words guide us directly back to the goodness of our heart. I strive to be more like him in my attitudes and example.

In a Homeboy Industries "Thought for the Day,” he said, “I was thinking about labels. You know, there’s supposed to be a political campaign that strives to not say “liberal” or “conservative” anymore. And I made me think back when I was a Chaplain at Folsom Prison and I taught American Fiction class and I had sixty students. Every single one was a “lifer.” Every single one had taken a life.”

“And there wasn’t a single murderer of the sixty who took my class.”

“We think these labels identify who we are. And no one would want to be identified by the single worst thing that you’ve done.”

“I could say, “You’re a bank robber.” Well, no, once I robbed a bank. And I regret that I did.”

“There’s a fullness of knowledge, of identity, of who somebody is. We don’t want to define anybody by the worst thing they’ve ever done.”

Boyle goes on to say that if somebody comes into his office and he’s told “oh, that guy’s trouble” or “that woman over there is really poison,” they are, instead, just “a question whose answer is compassion.”

“So today,” he said, “no labels. Let’s not define anyone except for the complex picture that they are. No one wants to be defined by a single moment in their lives or the worst thing they had ever done.”

In identifying anyone, Boyle concluded that, in assessing or identifying anyone, “the answer to every question is compassion.”

We make so many judgments in this life, from encounters at work, in public, even in traffic. Never judge anyone by the unpleasant mood, the angry expression on their face, or their poor driving skills.

Make every judgement, every assessment, every encounter based in compassion. And you will see more than what meets your eye, every time.


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