When I first started at Homeboy Industries, I had this empowering feeling that I was going to make a difference in the lives of the homeboys and homegirls. I was going to help them change their lives around, achieve goals they never thought possible and so forth. I was somehow going to be an influential vessel in their transformation. But never did I imagine that the trainees would impact my life in powerful ways. These young women and men have shown me the meaning of true kinship, unconditional love, and faith. Through their healing stories and desire to change, they embrace that second, third, and even tenth chance to rebuild their lives. That has been my most valuable experience here at Homeboy Industries, the beauty of second chances.
I was blessed to witness this reality manifested during the Live Free Town Hall Meeting last night. As the nation’s largest re-entry program, Homeboy Industries made a remarkable appearance at this meeting to advocate the importance of expanding and funding community based services for formerly incarcerated men and women. Two of our trainees, Deborah and Miguel, shared their own stories of transformation and explained why programs like Homeboy Industries are powerful instruments at re-integrating ex-convicts back into the community. In the words of Miguel, “This is a life that I only dreamed of, and my dreams had a way of never coming true before. But here I am living out my dream.” As I sat there listening to these powerful testimonies, the passion and tears flowing through Deborah and Miguel touched me. These two brave individuals as well as the rest of the homegirls and homeboys are living proof that second chances do lead to genuine transformations and continued healing. That a person with a history of gang violence and drugs can indeed turn their lives around for the better and make their dreams a reality in positive ways.
Second chances do exist and they do matter. I was never a believer in second chances, that once a person screwed up they deserved to live with their consequences for the rest of their lives. But Homeboy Industries has been there to show me the beauty of second chances. That no human being is perfect at life. Men and women who used to gang bang and shoot up drugs are now attending college, learning to become better parents, participating in community efforts for change, sharing their healing stories with thousands of people and most importantly, finding and embracing their true selves, the self that God intended them to be. By witnessing these transformations every single day, I have shifted my perspective on second chances because I am seeing that passion for change in people who I extremely admire. Because of that second chance Father G extended to them, I have the pleasure of calling these homegirls and homeboys my dear family. I would not have known them otherwise without that second chance. I was meant to be at Homeboy Industries not only to serve my dear neighbor, but to be changed and given a second chance at looking at life differently.