Today’s Midmorning conversation with Father Gregory Boyle, the founder of a jobs program for Los Angeles gang members, was already interesting before Michelle called. But then she brought us from Los Angeles to North Minneapolis with her story.
“I live in North Minneapolis and there’s lots of murders around here, but I actually witnessed one,” she said. “It was a 14-year-old boy and he was in a gang and he was shot right off his bike. In a pool of blood, laying there dead. And I have tried to share this experience with my friends who don’t live in North Minneapolis and even my family, and they brush it off and say, ‘oh, it’s North Minneapolis. He was a gang member.’ He was 14 and he’s dead. On my street. I saw it. And it’s so interesting how it’s utterly horrifying and no one can offer me any compassion, or see him as subhuman.”
“It’s a common thing, ” Fr. Boyle responded. “As long as there’s a them, we’re in trouble as a society. The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with folks who are on the margins… He was some mother’s kid. That had to count for something.”
Michelle clearly does feel a kinship with people on the margin. She moved to North Minneapolis from Highland Park — naively she said — 12 years ago and she seemed to question whether North Minneapolis feels a kinship with “folks who are on the margins.”
She said she “wasn’t trying to save North Minneapolis, just trying to make the invisible visible to our daily lives. Our neighbors really are trying to make North Minneapolis better and are trying to make it more livable and (they’re) saying, ‘we can’t highlight these murders. We have to highlight the good things about our neighborhood. So, really, could you just move on, Michelle?'”
She said it needs to be just as alarming “when there’s a murder on my street as it is in Highland, where if there was a murder, it was the talk of the town for three years.”
Fr. Boyle knows something about dead kids few people care about. California cut funding to his program — he says it has plenty of money to save the Hollywood sign and some famous alligator, but not for gang kids — and he had to lay off more than 300 people.
One of the young men who lost his job went to see him on Sunday. “And he said, ‘I want to thank you for everything thing you’ve ever done for me, Father. I especially want to thank you for the layoff, because it woke me up, and I start to see how valuable life is.” He said the youngster just enrolled at a public college to study psychology because he wants to be a counselor. “But he said, ‘I wouldn’t have come to that if you hadn’t saved me,’ and he thanked me.”
Last night, he was shot in the head outside of his home.
His name is Omar.