Here’s an episode of On Being with Krista Tippitt that I listened to first time around a couple of years ago. I recently listened to it again, and it affected me as much second time around. It’s with a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, famous for his work with gangs and gang members in and around Los Angeles. Perhaps you’ve heard about Homeboy Industries?
In the podcast, Greg Boyle describe what gangs are all about in this way:
It’s about a lethal absence of hope. It’s about kids who can’t imagine a future for themselves. It’s about kids who aren’t seeking anything when they join a gang. It’s about the fact that they’re always fleeing something, always, without exception. So it shifts the way you see things. Somebody, Bertrand Russell or somebody, said, ”If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” And that’s kind of how we want to — I think we need to proceed in something like this. So if you think it’s the Middle East, you’re quite mistaken. If you think it’s Northern Ireland, wrong again. It’s about kids who’ve ceased to care. So you want to infuse young people with hope when it seems that hope is foreign.
A lethal absence of hope.
Oh, that’s powerful.
That hit me right in the gut.
And there’s so much more in this podcast, so please, take a listen. (And you can actually read it as well, but I do urge you to listen. There’s a feeling behind the words that is very apparent when listening to Father Greg speak about his homies.)
If what we are facing is a lethal absence of hope, and I don’t doubt it for a minute – what can I do? What can we do? What is there to do? And I don’t mean specifically about the gangs of Los Angeles. I mean about the lethal absence of hope that is visible everywhere. I don’t think there’s a country on earth, not facing just that somewhere or other within the confines of its borders. Do you?
So how to approach a lethal absence of hope?