Every once in a while, a book comes along at precisely the moment when you should read it. Tattoos on the Heart by author, advocate, and Homeboy Industries founder Father Greg Boyle is one of those books.
About the time “Father G” was going global, I had just accepted the position of board chair in 2015 with a terrific organization called Colorado Uplift.
I’ve always taken an interest in the next generation of leaders. As I watched my son and daughter become leaders in their own lives, I often considered how other young men and women were finding their way in today’s uncertain times.
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Even more pressing, how is this next generation learning vital life skills when they don’t have a safe and supportive home or school life? Or worse, what do young women and men do when their only source of support comes from a harmful influence?
Naturally, these topics surfaced when I connected with my friend and colleague Susan Packard during a recent Off the Rak episode. Susan’s been focusing on the next generation for many personal and professional reasons, so we spoke about this pivotal time when young people are building their emotional fitness.
If teens miss this window of opportunity, and they don’t get the guidance and sense of hope they deserve, they surface in their twenties without necessary coping skills, not to mention a lack of preparedness for work or life’s responsibilities. The ripple effect is seemingly endless and, for some, is incredibly dangerous.
Homeboy Industries is the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program in the world. It’s been around for more than thirty years and is headquartered in downtown Chinatown, Los Angeles, which is the gang capital of the world, with 120,000 gang members and 1,100 gangs.
My work with Colorado Uplift has given me a greater appreciation for the incredible role “Father G” has played all these years. He and the staff are changing lives by providing a community of tenderness and healing. People who walk through the front doors find sanctuary from gang violence and learn how to imagine a future for themselves. They learn to hope.
Much like Father G and Homeboy Industries, Colorado Uplift is building long-term, life-changing relationships with urban youth so they get the positive guidance they need when it matters most. What I find so moving about Father G’s story is that he continues to love inner-city youth despite the death and destruction that continues around him.
In an interview, he was asked about presiding over more than two hundred deaths of Homeboy friends. And yet, he is hopeful, loving, and determined to change lives. It’s truly a remarkable story of love and perseverance.
If you want to be inspired by unwavering individuals who are focusing on our next generation, read Father Boyle’s latest book—and Susan’s!—and consider how you’re paying it forward with young leaders who are coming up in the world. The need is great, and the impact you can have is even greater.
Top image: Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view from Los Angeles, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons