My very first interview for this site was with Father Greg Boyle, the affable Jesuit priest who started Homeboy Industries, which helps former gang members and felons in Los Angeles turn their lives around.
When I walked into Homeboy, there was a large waiting area filled with men and women - Father Greg's "homies", as he affectionately calls them - who were waiting to meet with "G", as he is in turn affectionately known. As I discovered, Father G was not expecting me due to a mix-up with his schedule. Nevertheless, despite having never heard of me prior to that moment and a busy schedule, he took me into his office and sat me down to talk about gratitude. We had a wonderful conversation, which you can read here.
Our time together was punctuated by several "interruptions" (though I can hardly call them that). A homie and employee came in to ask Father G's help with the case of 16 year-old boy who was having trouble with his paperwork and immunization records before starting his first day of work. Another reported a success story - an addict they had been trying to help had agreed to go to rehab.
Father G's act of taking the time to speak with me – a moment of kindness and generosity amidst the busyness – made a lasting impression on me. After all, I, too, was an interruption. And yet, as he says, "interruptions correctly considered can become adventures." I think that's true of gratitude, as well. Most of life, correctly considered, can become adventures in gratitude. Even or especially the suffering, as I've learned from the people I've talked to.
After speaking with Father G I knew that I wanted to interview some of the homies. The man who ran the gift shop was warm-hearted and seemed like a likely candidate. I knew this because of something that happened after I had purchased Father G's book from him earlier and tried to make my exit. Whoever cleans the shop's large glass windows does a stellar job -- too stellar in my opinion. In attempting to leave I marched smack dab into the crystal-clear glass and was stopped cold with a loud shudder. It was one of those moments that happens in life when everybody in your vicinity stops what they’re doing, turns to you and thinks "Oh daaaamn!" in the silence of their hearts. The man at the gift's shop's register, whose name I learned was Richard, reassured me "Don't even worry. Happens all the time!"
So after meeting with Father G, I went back to the gift shop and asked Richard if I could interview him about gratitude. He was happy to oblige as was Ana, his boss. I was once again touched by their incredible stories and generosity in sharing with me.
Thus began Grateful People. My intention with this project is to share what people around the world are grateful for in their daily lives. My hope is that this might help us find new opportunities for gratitude in our own lives, and then to act on the gratitude in some shape or form. Father G quotes Mother Teresa in saying the world's ills exist because "we have forgotten that we belong to each other." I hope this blog can, in some shape or form, remind us of that fact.
In working towards this goal, I need your help. I would love to hear your own personal stories of gratitude, ideas for people to interview, and anything else you may wish to share or comment on. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to starting this adventure in gratitude with you all. With thanks.