This past weekend I attended the H.I.M. Conference in Honolulu. H.I.M. is the largest conference in the state and offers numerous amazing speakers from all over the world. To talk about all of the people I had a chance to meet over the last few days would take quite a while, so I will focus on one speaker here.
One of the amazing people I got to meet and learn from was Fr. Greg Boyle. Fr. Boyle runs Homeboy Industries, which is the largest gang intervention program in the nation. I was eager to meet and speak with him because of my work with those on the margins in my own community. Although I have been serving the homeless, drug addicted, troubled youth, and other marginalized groups in my area for a while, like many people, I still have questions and need encouragement from time-to-time. Working with these groups is a continual learning process.
One of the things I wanted to hear him discuss was what kind of advice he might offer to someone who is unsure of what to say to a homeless person, gang member, drug addict, or any other troubled person he or she may hope to serve? In response, he mentioned this: "The minute it's about imparting wisdom or saving lives, it's over. It's about connecting. Can you receive people?" One of the things he firmly believes in is the importance of just being there. It isn't about having just the right thing to say or accomplishing your own agenda. One of the ways you can help is by simply showing that you care by showing up and taking the time to just be there.
This was timely advice. The number one comment I get from people who also want to serve the homeless or other marginalized group is: I'm not sure what I can do. As result of being unsure, they usually end up doing absolutely nothing. The truth is: just being there is often enough. Taking the time to show you care at all for a person often means more to them than you may ever realize. I agree completely with Fr. Boyle's remarks. The main reason I have had any success serving the homeless in my community is that I show up. I talk to them when no one else will. And even more important than talking with them, I listen.
If any of you are interested in serving others, I urge you to go out there and give it a go. Do small acts of kindness for folks in your community. Start somewhere where you feel comfortable, but start somewhere. Remember, it's about making a connection. You can make a difference. However, I can guarantee you won't make a difference at all, if you do nothing. Have a wonderful week, everyone!