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Lions Roar : November 2018
PEMA CHÖDRÖN: I’ve always had a place in me that thinks, “Oh, I wish I had actually been able to alleviate suffering the way you do, G r e g .” (Indicating Father Boyle) You know, in the trenches, where I could really get my hands dirty. Instead, I travel around in kind of a little bubble. It’s gratifying when people tell me my books have helped them—I don’t want to put down what I do—but I so admire the level of bodhisattva activity you do. FATHER GREG BOYLE: Well, what feeds that work is what I call extravagant tenderness. “Tenderness” is so rich a word. We always say at Homeboy that if love is the answer, community is the context and tenderness is the methodology. At Homeboy, our experience is that suffering gets allevi- ated in community with extravagant tenderness. Tenderness becomes the connective tissue, as opposed to, “I love you.” Some- how, tenderness is where you meet people. It becomes exquisitely mutual, where I’m not saving you, I’m not even serving you, I’m allowing, or trying, to be reached by you. Then it becomes mutual and life-giving. I find tenderness is sort of a thing for me right now. PEMA CHÖDRÖN: It’s a much better word than “love.” “Love” is so loaded it almost doesn’t touch you, whereas “tenderness” actually does. Moderator Jose Arellano: Where does that deep desire to relieve suffering come from for each of you? What is the root of it? FATHER GREG BOYLE: It’s about joy. I feel like the most selfish person I know, because if your job is to alleviate suffering, that’s where the joy is. That’s why I’m at Homeboy Industries, not because it’s a tough job and “somebody’s got to do it.” It’s about joy, about delight, and about showing up. People are hilarious and people are heartbreaking and people are so vulnerable and so trusting that it’s joyful. William Carlos Williams used to say about poetry, “If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem.” That’s sort of what Homeboy is about. That’s the secret. People think relieving suffering has to be a grim duty, but it isn’t. It’s joy. PEMA CHÖDRÖN: I really resonate with that answer. It brings me so much joy. ♦ LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 34