'There is Just Us': Service Trip Reflection

    April 2, 2019
    By: Taylor Roman '21

    “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There is just us.” These are the words of Father Greg Boyle that will be engraved in my heart forever along with the countless stories of the people I encountered during my Domestic Outreach Service Trip in Los Angeles, California.

    Over spring break, I embarked on a weeklong service trip along with 9 other students and 2 staff members. We mainly served at Homeboy Industries throughout the week; however, we also had the opportunity to serve in the heart of Skid Row at both the Downtown Women’s Center and The Midnight Mission. While serving at the locations in Skid Row we were informed that about 85,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness in LA County alone.

    As I think back on the week, my mind is flooded with images of countless tents lined up for blocks. The most upsetting, though, was seeing parents with their children roaming the street with nowhere to go. For those of us who believe to be living the American Dream, we must be more aware of the injustice that is taking place on the very land we call our home. Although I was shocked by the poverty and oppression that is taking place in my country, the lesson I took from it is this: We are all human and therefore equal. As a part of the human race, we must care about the condition of our fellow human beings, whether that it is their physical situation or what is going on in their hearts that is causing them to lead the lifestyle that they are leading.

    Homeboy Industries could be defined as a rehabilitation/reintegration center for ex-gang members or people who have been previously incarcerated; however, upon stepping foot in Homeboy, it became evident to me that they are so much more. I use the pronoun “they” because Homeboy Industries is not defined by the infrastructure which houses the services that Homeboy offers, but instead it is defined by the group of people that walk in and out its doors on a daily basis. Homeboy Industries is a family and it is my hope that more and more people get to meet this family and that one day this family will be known and have an impact across the United States.

    As I listened to the stories of each of the Homboys and Homegirls throughout the week, I began to notice how each story had the power to change the person who it was being shared with and to heal the person who was sharing it. It became clear to me that each time a homie shared their story they were pushing it further and further into the past and allowing themselves to heal. One of my fellow group members brought up a good point in one of our evening reflections. He explained that there is no study or factual evidence that states or proves that a program like the one at Homeboy Industries works, but each and every person in that building believes wholeheartedly in what they are doing. Because of that, Homeboy Industries is a success and the very image of God can be seen in each face that shows up every morning fighting for something greater.

    True kinship. That is what I learned this week. On the first day, I asked our enthusiastic tour guide a question about who had attended the daily morning meeting that we had just finished. Being my curious self, I was just trying to wrap my head around how the place functioned. He looked at me confused. He said, “We don’t have titles. We are just family.” He went on to say, “Homeboy is magic”. At the end of our tour, he shared his own story with us. At the young age of 8 years old, he was gang banging and carrying a weapon. Everyone knew him. In his lifetime, he has been shot more than 30 times and stabbed twice, yet he is still standing and able to share his story. He expressed his gratitude towards Homeboy and the family he now has. If you saw him now, you would see a young man whose smile lights up a room and whose humor brightens any situation. That is the kind of resilience that consumes the halls of Homeboy Industries.

    Lastly, I’ll close with some food for thought. A man by the name of Hugo, previously sentenced to 3 counts of life, sat down with our group and shared his story and he ended his talk with something pretty inspiring. He said if gold and diamonds, things that are in abundance, are so rare and valuable, how much more valuable are you if you are unique and there is only one of you? If everyone could hear those words and truly let it affect them, society would be much better off. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have experienced Los Angeles -- minus the glamour and the fame -- alongside an amazing group of people.screen-shot-2019-04-02-at-12.32.01-pm.png

    International Business Major, Communications and French Minor
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