He has become the never-giver-upper to those who have only known rejection, the easily despised, the readily left out. He speaks a language most of them had never heard or even understood, the language of love.
It's a violent and dangerous world in which he lives and works and in many ways the book is dangerous too. Its stories pierce the heart and the ‘thematic mortar’ he slathers around to hold the stories together challenge me like no book on theology ever has.
The stories unearth my own subtle quick judgments and my ability to shape God in my own image. It's a confronting book, but honest, frank and delightfully humorous. There is no doubt that these young men and women have tattooed themselves on Boyle’s heart.
If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some people’s lives matter less than other lives.
It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks open the mind’s shell and enters the heart. Denise Levertov
And maybe that’s what draws me into their stories.
These homies have longings and dreams no different from mine, their potential no less, but some cruel reality of life has robbed them of any belief in their inherent goodness.
There is a palpable sense of disgrace strapped like an oxygen tank onto the back of every gang member. Shamed. Trapped.
But Boyle sees beneath that shame and glimpses the beauty trapped there.
So too are many of the 'homies' whose lives have been transformed by grace.
I highly recommend the book but be prepared to weep, and to laugh out loud. To recognise your own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women whose stories fill the pages.
And I leave the last words to Boyle,
The day simply won’t come when I am more noble, have more courage, or am closer to God than the folks whose lives fill these pages. I’ve learned with their patient guidance, to worship Christ as he lives in them.
Take a moment to ‘meet’ Gregory Boyle and Mario, one of his 'homies'. Watch the video.
Only the soul that ventilates the world with tenderness has any chance of changing the world.