Our family took a trip to my happy place, Los Angeles during the last week of Summer vacation. Los Angeles was a little too big for me when I moved there at 19ish and I ran away within two years. I cherish the time I spent there and am always happy to visit. I sometimes wish I had been braver, but I think life turned out beautifully, and I can visit Los Angeles whenever I want. On our last trip, we visited Homeboy Industries and enjoyed treats at The Homegirl Cafe. Most importantly, we met “Laura” who we will not soon forget.
Laura (this is not her real name, because I am trying to protect identity even on our small blog – but I promise you the woman in this story is for real and we love her) spent some time sharing what Homeboy Industries meant to her. She shared about her life and what brought her to Homeboy Industries. It was hard you guys. How this woman was able to speak with kindness and openness at all is a testimony to powerful resilience of the human spirit, but also the work being done at Homeboy Industries.
Homeboy Industries is an incredible organization that began serving the Los Angeles community in the 1980s. It was started by Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who boldly followed the calling to love gang members and help them find jobs. Through his vision, thousands of lives have been changed. Families are being restored, cycles are breaking, and people are finding new and lasting hope.
My family visited for their morning meeting and Laura took us around for a tour. Before the tour a woman shared about how she had just graduated and then she shared her thoughts on kinship, a core theme of the folks at Homeboy Industries. Laura shared that she works in the bread factory and that her favorite class is ‘conflict resolution’ where they act out ways to resolve a dispute without escalating. During morning meeting we heard that they offered classes on personal finance, conflict resolution, exercise, GED prep, and more. They offer music and art therapy as well as traditional counseling. Homeboy Industries provides free tattoo removal. Lawyers are provided to help with anything that someone working might need help with. In a downstairs office we saw stacks of diapers, formula, and supplies for those who had babies. A large library of motivational and encouraging books are available for anyone to take home at any time.
During morning meeting they made sure to shout out everyone’s birthday that week. One man in particular looked like it was the first time he had ever heard it and my heart bust at the seams. There was cake for everyone, which made my kids very happy. I won’t lie, we felt a little out of place, but only because of our internal hang ups. Not one person gave us a weird look. A woman waiting for tattoo removal had a baby on her lap, my oldest plopped down next to her and they played and talked. J asked the mom if she could get her a piece of cake since her hands were full, she appreciated the help. A big man with tattoos that I am sure were meant to intimidate at one time handed my obviously sheltered son a piece of cake and said “You like corner pieces, Homie?” and my son was very happy to make this new friend. It was Utopia you guys. The love was powerful and it is easy to see why people are moved here. The goal is to provide people with the tools they need to keep them out of prison and out of gangs.
Homeboy Industries isrun by private donations, but also makes money through several companies run by former gang members including Homegirl Cafe which we can personally can endorse. You can read more about Father Boyle and Homeboy Industries in his book Tattoos on the Heart. I have included the book on Amazon which is only about $7 – I also always encourage borrowing from your local library or even downloading the Libby app to read for free. Our Amazon links do provide a small commission, but we love the idea of people borrowing! Save the money and donate towards this fundraiser or to Homeboy Industries directly!
Laura shared her story and her hopes, but didn’t just talk about herself, she talked with our kids. She asked them questions. She told them to never get tattoos. At one point she mentioned a SoCal theme park she liked to go to with her kids, but also said how much she would like to go to Disneyland. “We’ve gone to Disneyland a BUNCH!” says my oldest, “You should GO, it is SO FUN!” Laura explained that it looked fun, she had never been even though she grew up here. She shared that she would love to bring her kids one day, and you could tell she really wanted to, but it was just not something she had the budget for. My 12 year old starts to backpedal a bit; realizing her embarrassment of riches, “We get to go because of my mom’s work sometimes, it is fun but the other place has rides that are just as fun.” We continued on the rest of the tour and just fell in love with this place and the people there, especially Laura.
After a trip to the cafe and gift shop, we moved on with our day. In the car we all talked about what we had learned, and also about Laura and Disneyland. “Guys, I know we have been a ton of times, but Laura has never been, and you could tell she really wanted to.” They all agreed. I sat there in the passenger’s seat feeling guilty about any trip we had ever spent money on and more so that we had recently booked a trip for our birthdays to Oahu. I wished at that moment I could give that trip away in the form of Disneyland tickets to a person I didn’t even know until a few hours before. “Guys, how good would it feel to surprise her with Disneyland tickets?” Everyone agreed that it would be wonderful and then we started planning to work together to save money to buy tickets to Disneyland for Laura. We’d sell things on Facebook groups, we’d sell some collectible things on eBay, we can do this. I have an envelope in my kitchen junk drawer labeled “Laura Disneyland $500”. The goal is to fill it up and buy a $500 Disney gift card. Tickets for three people, parking, and some spending money. This seemed like a modest goal. We have just over $100 in it after about three weeks, $10 of which is from my son who donated the $10 he got for feeding a friend’s cat while they were on vacation “I want Laura to go to Disneyland more than I want LEGOs.” Be still my heart.
A little over $100 in an envelope is not nothing, but I had honestly hoped we would have more by this point and I start to panic. We listed some things on eBay and realized that our collectibles are not worth as much as we thought. *sad trombone* I shared the one thing that had a bid on it with our Highlights Along the Way Facebook Page, telling a little bit about our goal. Someone asked me to set up a fundraising page and one other person thumbs upped it and that is all I needed to write this post!
So guys, if you want to participate in funding Laura’s trip to Disneyland – I present to you the opportunity to put $5 or $10 or whatever into the bucket! Please note, Laura did not ask me to do this, not even a hint. I assume she made a greater impact on our lives than we did on her. She might not even remember us, we were just people who visited one day.
Our Go Fund Me for Laura! <—- please click here to go directly to Go Fund Me
Let’s say you don’t have any money to donate, that is OK, I have another way you can help! I am pledging to donate half of my September ad revenue check to Homeboy Industries. Our ad revenue is something we still depend on as a family, so I am counting on people to share this. Donate to Laura if you can, share if you are comfortable, both are helpful!
My prayer is that we can raise $500 to gift to Laura in the form of a Disney gift card. I don’t know if we can do this, but I hope so! On the very real chance that we are not able to get there with this Go Fund Me, please know our family is still selling stuff on Facebook groups and Ebay and Etsy, and we will update you when we get that $500 to Laura. Anything donated here will be applied. If we get more than $500, it will all go to Laura and her kids for Disneyland, we all know that $500 is a very modest trip to Disneyland. In the unlikely event that this goes nuts and we get WAY more than $500 donated, we will donate whatever seems excessive for a Disneyland trip to Homeboy Industries directly.