by Gary DeLong, Outreach Comm. Chair
Lay leaders and members of AHCC attended an evening with Fr. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest, at Hartford’s Franciscan Center.
Fr Boyle’s warmth, humor and humility came through from the very beginning of the presentation when he told the story of how one former gang member aided by his agency was leading a tour of their home offices. Greg was in a meeting, but could see and hear the young man telling the group that they were at the office of the agency’s founder, a Jujitsu priest.
Fr Boyle’s homeboys, as he calls them, are part of what refers to as “the easily despised.” He went on to remind us that sometimes it is necessary to reteach someone about their loveliness, and that’s what we are called to do. Boyle illustrates that when he speaks of Eric, a homeboy who was always complaining about everyone, always looking for some money, always being a “pain in the butt.” But Eric was an orphan, and Fr Boyle knew that Eric had to raise himself. The day Eric asked to be blessed, Boyle remembered that the day before was Eric’s birthday, so he put his arms around him and said, “Eric I’m so glad you were born, so glad you changed my life.” Then he paused and added, “Even though, Eric, you can be a pain in the butt,” Eric responded, “Yes Father G, and you can be a pain in mine.”
Greg spoke of “exquisite mutuality” and how its about creating a kinship community which honors and promotes a culture of reteaching each other about our loveliness. He believes that with no kinship there is no peace, no justice, no equality, and sometimes people forget that we belong to one another. He reminded us that when we think it’s all about serving the marginalized, only to meet their needs, we miss the point. It’s about going to the margins so that we can be rescued from all that keeps us from being our true selves. We go to be rescued, transformed, changed ourselves. To be taught and reintroduced to our mutual kinship. Once that touches us, then and only then, might we be able to meet some real needs.
It is our calling to create a community of tenderness, not so that we can deliver services to those in need, but to provide people with what they need to create a sanctuary, an attitude, a climate and culture, where everyone is retaught about their intrinsic loveliness. Community is the context – it becomes a place where tenderness is recognized as the highest form of spirituality. What he tries to do, says Fr Boyle, is create an irresistible culture of tenderness.
It is my hope that all of us at AHCC, and especially those of us on the Outreach Committee in partnership with the AHCC community and area agencies are working toward creating an irresistible culture of tenderness, with each other and with the marginalized of Hartford, especially Asylum Hill, knowing as we have learned from Greg Boyle, that those in the margins are those who might reach us and teach us what we need to know about our own, as well as their loveliness.