Problem-Solvers: Father Greg Boyle

Father_Greg_Boyle_and_Dennis_Sanchez

 Father Greg Boyle and Dennis Sanchez
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest who found himself in East Lost Angeles 20 years ago trying to find a way to serve its people.  What Father Greg came to do is to establish one of the most effective gang intervention programs in the country:  Homeboy Industries, which offers job training, counseling, tattoo removal, and a myriad of other services.  His organization has served 120,000 gang members, and Los Angeles Police Commission Chairman, Steve Soboroff, is on record stating that Homeboy Industries is a key part of the reason crime rates are down.

I recently read a transcript of an American Public Media interview with Father Greg.  He describes how Homeboy Industries came into being:

 . . . that was born as we began as sort of a job employment referral center, trying to find felony-friendly employers [laughter] and that wasn’t so forthcoming. So by ’92, we had to start our own. We really — so we couldn’t wait.  The demand was so huge and gang members kept saying if only we had jobs.  So we started Homeboy Bakery in 1992 and, a month later, we started Homeboy Tortillas in the Grand Central Market, a historic kind of area in LA.  Once we had two . . . 

“We couldn’t wait.”  “The demand was so huge.”
— Greg Boyle, Problem-Solver.

What problem can’t wait for you to solve?

a question-filled hiatus

Hello, Dedicated Readers!

How lovely to be back here again. A year’s break from writing was never imagined when I wrote that last post just over a year ago. But, I have been on such a journey this past year, a journey that may find its way in and out of these next months’ posts, because there were certainly many big and little, tangled and clear, simple and complex problems. Many questions were asked, pondered, and answered; some solutions were fashioned. And then the question, “Just what is keeping you from getting back to writing about ‘working well in the modern world’?” kept presenting itself evermore insistently. Answers were given, ad hoc testing was attempted, and finally we arrive at the answer of simply sitting down at the keyboard and floating these thoughts out to you.

Problems are questions. Questions are problems. Our ability to see and elucidate the questions and more questions and more and more is our never-ending search for understanding, meaning, love, the alleviation of suffering, the creation of abundance. We are blinded at each moment by many facets, the fact of our human self and our mind’s constructs being primary, and so we turn the problem this way and that, probing here, probing there; it is a lifelong task, indeed the never-ending task of humanity. If we are wise, we live the questions themselves, as the poet says. We find both our sorrow and our joy in the questions, our passion and our determination — in the questions. If we wait for answers before we began to live, we miss much of life altogether. And, then, when we are living the questions, in sorrow, joy, passion, determination, sometimes the answers, the resolution, the way comes to us and sits in our lap, quietly lights on our shoulder, wakes us suddenly in the middle of the night, or shows itself plainly under our microscope or in our notebooks because some blind spot has been finally adjusted. Passionate problem-solving is passionate questing and questioning, passionately living the problems themselves. How do we visualize a problem? We paint masterpieces that strike others in the human race over 100 years later with the agony of the human condition. We tell stories that are passed through the generations. We share drawings and thoughts and passions. Sadness and frustration. Discovery and abundance. This is passionate problem-solving. This is glorious life.

Back tomorrow.

a Sunday puzzler

If you appreciate the brilliant beauty of National Geographic photographs and found the jigsaw puzzle from last week a fun way to stimulate your brain on the weekend, here is a link to a bigger challenge: Choose a National Geographic photo of your choice and generate a jigsaw on the fly: an almost pure white snow scene – for those of you who are expert jigsaw puzzlers! – or a photo filled with a thousand colors for an easier solution. Be sure to look at the picture closely and intently before you start. Happy Sunday!

Some Self-Assessment

Today, we’re going to do a self-assessment of our problem-solving skills via Mind Tools. I have found Mind Tools a good resource for helping me look at areas in which I need to grow to forward my work. Today, I encourage you to take a few minutes to take its quiz: How Good Are You at Solving Problems?

I confess that my results were that I am a little “hit and miss” when it comes to problem-solving, based on this quiz and Mind Tools’ problem-solving methods. What is your score? More importantly, what problem-solving ideas proposed by Mind Tools do you find most intriguing? Easiest to see yourself adopting? Most unreasonable?

We will be exploring more problem-solving methods, including Polya’s classic work, How To Solve It, in future posts.

And finally, Happy Saint Valentine’s Day! The love and romance quizzes out there are too numerous to mention. I leave you simply with this: let us love one another.

triumph of discovery

A great discovery solves a great problem but there is a grain of discovery in the solution of any problem. Your problem may be modest; but if it challenges your curiosity and brings into play your inventive faculties, and if you solve it by your own means, you may experience the tension and enjoy the triumph of discovery.

G. Polya
From the Preface to the First Printing
August 1, 1944
How to Solve It