“We see in the homies what they don’t see in themselves, until they do.” -Greg Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart
We may have mentioned this book once or twice on the TCHP blog. And by once or twice, I clearly mean 100 or 200. Greg Boyle so eloquently talks about the dignity and the countless chances that the homies deserve while making the decision to leave the gang life behind. At TCHP, we’re also big believers in pouring love and encouragement into our kids daily, believing that the day will come where they will see their own worth and importance.
This particular sentence from Tattoos has been at the center of my mind the past few weeks as I’m reflecting on our second year of Crecer. This year has brought so much growth, so much depth, and all sorts of new challenges for us.
Last year, a week after school started, disaster struck in the community where our kids live. As their families scrambled for safety, we struggled with stability at Crecer. Half of our kids and their families moved away from the area, others were too scared to walk to where we pick them up for school, and they were all were marked by yet another traumatic experience in their lives. We struggled with the words to say and how to continue motivating our kids to go to school. I mean, when a family is literally fearing for their lives, I can only imagine that washing a uniform and memorizing multiplication tables aren’t exactly high on the priority list. Some days, only one kid went to school. We celebrated when we had six kids show up at Crecer.
Months passed and we stood firm and constant. Our kids knew where to find us and what we’re all about. Slowly, the chaos calmed, some families moved back to the area, and we continued to fight all that our kids are up against on a daily basis. By Christmas time, we finally felt “full” again.
This year, it’s been a little more complicated. Thankfully, there hasn’t been one singular event that has driven our kids and their families into a frenzy like last year. But we’”re halfway through the school year and our attendance is lower than we’d like. This year, our kids who aren’t regularly attending school aren’t attending because they don’t think it’s important. They see their family members working for roughly $5 a day and think it’s what they’re destined to do as well. They join their uncle or their brother at their labor intensive jobs a few days a week and discover that right now, $5 is a lot to them. Right now, $5 buys chips and soda and time playing video games. Right now, $5 is more fun than studying and waking up early. They can’t see what $5 will mean in the future. They can’t fathom something different- something better. They think, “this is the way it’s going to be, because this is the way it has always been for my family and everyone I know.”
The beautiful thing about Crecer is that, even if they’re not going to school right now, doesn’t mean that they’re no longer a part of our family. Our doors are still open. We’re still standing firm and constant. We’re reaching out, reminding them every once in a while that we’re still here, telling them how much we love them and how much we miss them. They still know what we’re all about. My prayer is that we’ll once again be full by Christmas.
“We see in the homies what they don’t see in themselves, until they do.” We see their artistic talents, their strengths, the potential for a bright future, and all their light- because they don’t just yet. Their surroundings are telling them something different, and for some, our quiet, still voice isn’t reaching the cochlea just yet. I yearn for the day that each of our kids knows and values their worth. For some, it’s going to take some time, and that’s okay. We’ll still be here when they decide to try again.