Foreword by Stan Lerner: this is a story about the Homeboy Industries Fundraiser, at Union Station, which I attended Saturday night. I did not walk into this event with the slightest intention of writing a story. But I walked out knowing that I had no choice other than to pen some thoughts from the heart about this important and moving experience.
Do you believe in God? I believe that most of us do. However, I think that we live in a world so filled with noise, and by noise I mean all of the material distractions of life, that much of our belief in God is relegated to the quiet of our subconscious. Given that most Americans enjoy a life of considerable physical comfort and an abundance of entertainment we often tend to seek out an individual audience with God primarily in times of trouble, angst and or designated times—around the observance schedules of our respective religious organizations. And while I could write at length about the state of our relationship with God, I will depart from the broader subject and talk about one, ideal, reality—it was very much in the world, very much in the City of Angels, very much at Union Station on Saturday night.
So, I’m asking you now to venture from the norm for a few minutes as you read this blog. Move God from your subconscious belief to the forefront of your consciousness and imagine the world as the place it would be if we all had the strength and wisdom to do what’s right all of the time. Seriously, take a few minutes and imagine this, imagine who and what you would be…
Saturday night’s event brought together a large group of people of different ethnicities and religious beliefs for one purpose, to raise money to support an organization that does God’s work here on Earth. Downtownster has written about this organization before and the story that most of us know, in our day-to-day state of mind is fairly simple—a guy named Father Greg Boyle gives ex-gang members jobs baking, working in a café or screen printing T-shirts. I should add that Father Boyle fits the part, full priest gear, white-beard, round glasses and a way with words. But we all know that there’s much more to the story (Father Boyle knows this.)—our part of the story, the part where on occasion we don’t delegate the responsibility to the guy that looks the part, but we step up onto the stage and say that we’re also part of the show—this is transformation, this is transcendence and quite possibly the dawning of a new age of enlightenment, this enlightenment one of not only forgiveness, but of reconciliation.
I was invited to this night by a woman named Carmen Rodriguez, a force of nature in her own right, and a force of business development for City National Bank. And I should mention that this was only one of many kindnesses extended to I by Carmen and City National Bank over the past few years. But my good fortune aside, the much greater message is that City National Bank is able to invite the Stan Lerner’s of the world to events and programs, because City National Bank reinvests in the community. And I can’t mention this without mentioning Sal Mendoza, City National Bank’s Senior VP of Community Reinvestment. Sal merits a blog of his own, but simply put, he is extraordinary—he gets it. In the course of my most blessed and unusual life I’ve met a lot of people and every now and then I meet a Sal Mendoza. Now imagine a large hall filled with tables, filled with people like the one I was sitting at.
Our table was particularly fortunate because we were able to add a couple of extra chairs and accommodate two homeboys from Homeboy Industries. Luis, who joined the end of the table I was sitting at, had joined a gang and started dealing crack cocaine at the age of fourteen. He did this to get out of his home where he was being raised by a single, alcohol, abusing mother, who beat him regularly. His hands still bear the marks of having been pressed against a hot stovetop—he slept in the bathroom with his hands in the toilet to bring relief. I know, there are a lot of stories, this is just another one of them—it’s easy to let our minds go there. I grew up in East LA, I’ve seen these matters first hand, they’re not just stories, they’re sins and they’re the worst kind of sins because they are against children.
I of course know a great deal about sin. Although I’ve dined with world leaders and have kept the company of some of the richest persons on the planet—I was a criminal (The worst kind of criminal because I had choices, I could have been anything I wanted to be.) and am, unfortunately so, qualified to share with you this unique understanding. The vast majority of the people in prison or receiving the love and care of Homeboy Industries, for that matter, are NOT criminals—they’re law breakers, they’re ignorant, they’re DAMAGED, but they’re not criminals—I know. I think I’m quoting Father Boyle, who might have been quoting someone else, when I say, “Damaged people, damage other people. Transformed people, transform other people.” And I have been saying for almost twenty years now, that the focus of the American penal system should not be punishment, but education. When we put one of our fellow human beings in a cage like an animal, that person has most likely broken the laws created by our society, but make no mistake, it is society, it’s you and I, that have really failed—we’ve failed the person that we’ve sent to the cage and we’ve failed God, because surely in this instance we have not been our brother’s keeper.
Sheriff Lee Baca was one of two honorees this particular evening. Interesting, because he is most likely the jailer of most of the 12,000 men and women that come through the doors of Homeboy Industries every year. But remember what I said about forgiveness and reconciliation. I don’t know Sheriff Baca, but I listened to his words closely and I have no doubt that he has come to the conclusion that there is indeed no justice, without mercy. And that taking complete control over someone’s physical existence, presents the opportunity, and for anyone who believes in God, the responsibility, to offer them a better mental and spiritual path to walk on. I myself once wrote from a prison cell, “My body is caged, but at last my soul is free.” By the grace of God, and a judge that was willing to give Stan Lerner a second chance, I left that cage and went on to be an award winning author of eight books, two Vegas shows, a funny movie, create downtownster and never commit a crime again…So when Sheriff Baca says that he plans to completely change the jail experience by introducing education from day one of incarceration—I pray for his success. Every one of our fellow human beings who walks out of a prison should have the tools necessary to start a new life—not just the unusual few, the statistic I am personally counted among.
Today, we send a shoplifter to jail and we get back a car thief. Today, we send a car thief to jail and we get back a bank robber. Today, we send a bank robber to jail and we get back a murderer. Imagine tomorrow, we send a shoplifter to jail and we get back a baker. We send a car thief to jail and we get back a factory owner. We send a bank robber to jail and we get back a college professor. And because it’s tomorrow there are no murderers, but if there were, we’d get back a physician, because that’s the way the world could be.
If we pause and think about the 12,000 individuals that walk through Father Boyle’s door and try to imagine, and I’m going to quote Grover McKean (Also an honoree.), quoting the Talmud (The oral tradition of the Jewish faith.) that saving even one life, in the eyes of God, is the equivalent to saving the entire world. So, is the world being saved 12,000 times over, every year in the heart of Los Angeles? Unequivocally, the answer is yes, and actually the number is far greater.
So when I hear that Homeboy Industries has financial challenges beyond even the scope of one very successful fundraiser I say, “Really?” Let me say this again, “Really?” I’m guessing that most of the homeboys that are under the influence of Father Boyle abandon a life of crime, but for this moment’s consideration, let’s just say that they commit one less crime a year—that’s 12,000 fewer crimes. What’s that worth to us as a society? What’s that worth to the individual, when the individual is you, and you’re staring down the barrel of a gun, held by a damaged youth that could have been fixed? We all know the answer—it’s priceless!
I’m an artist by trade, I love the arts and I’m thankful for all of the generous individuals who support the arts, but REALLY, shouldn’t there be an endowment for Homeboy Industries? Shouldn’t Father Boyle be able to spend his time where he’s most needed? Again, we all know the answer. I can’t help but to think of the ending minutes of the movie Schindler’s List, when Oscar Schindler comes to the realization that he could have saved more lives. He takes the gold watch off of his wrist, understanding that for all of the good he had done, one more human being could have been saved if he had just parted with something as simple as his watch. A human life for a watch! I think of my friend that just bought another house for 2.2 million dollars because none of the four homes he already calls home has gates. I think of a billionaire that spends more money on ads, announcing the giving of awards to himself and his billionaire friends, than Homeboy Industries needs for an endowment. I think of a newspaper that is willing to take this man’s money, rather than ask him to give it to a worthy cause. And to be honest, I think of myself, as we all should—millions of us who can save the lives of those who have not been as blessed.
Know this, I do not share any of my aforementioned thoughts in judgment of any kind, but as a brother that hopes that not one of us will ever have to say before taking our last breath, “I could have done more.”
STAN LERNER’S BOOKS ON SMASHWORDS .COM
“STAN LERNER’S CRIMINAL”
HOLLYWOOD BOOK FESTIVAL GRAND PRIZE WINNER
An intense page-turner based on the author’s true-life experiences.
“Stan Lerner’s Criminal” is the graphic and shocking account of the rise to power of the world’s most calculating and dangerous criminal…Sam Noah.
Sam Noah was handsome, intelligent, and charismatic. He came from a good family, had the perfect girlfriend, and attended UCLA where he ranked at the top of his class. Noah could have made anything he wanted to out of his life. But crime came naturally to him.
The story begins in 1984. The Cold War is at its height and the CIA is looking for still more funding for its covert operations around the world. Powerful men decide that there must be a go to guy. A man that will do whatever is necessary to finance the wars that Congress cannot be made aware of.
Sam Noah takes a job at a popular nightclub where he runs a smalltime ticket scam — and he begins to recruit the ruthless men that will help him build a narcotics empire.
When the FBI becomes a gathering threat to Noah, he forms an alliance with the CIA. His innovations — the crack house and the drive-by shooting — not only bring an unprecedented level of violence to the streets of America. They assure the powerful men who have engaged his services that Noah is indeed capable of doing the unthinkable.
The sale of cocaine makes him rich. His willingness to commit murder ensures that he will remain so.
Not since Hannibal Lecter has there been such a horrifying yet engaging mastermind of evil.
“Stan Lerner’s Criminal” transports the reader into the darkest of all places: the criminal mind. This is an unforgettable journey into the psyche of Sam Noah — the man behind some of the most brutal sins against humanity.
By the end of this unflinching tale, what may shock the reader the most is how he or she will ultimately identify with and root for this ruthless but brilliant “Criminal”.
To sample or purchase “Stan Lerner’s Criminal” please visit:
“In Development” is a hilarious account of a day in the life of Stan Peters—Hollywood’s most powerful and scummiest producer.
The day begins like any other day—a superlative, five-star breakfast at The Peninsula Hotel. However, the shocking news that there has been a change at the very top of the studio means that the perfect world of Stan and his closest associates could come to a sudden end—especially with a movie like “Two Jews and a Blonde Psycho” in development. The subsequent call from Brad, the new studio boss, confirms their greatest fear—their movie is in danger of being put in turn-around. A day of sex, manipulation, lying, betrayal, blackmail, and murder ensues — otherwise known in Hollywood as a happy ending.
To sample or purchase “In Development” please visit:
To sample or purchase “Blast” please visit:
To sample or purchase “Impact” please visit:
GET CHICKS 101
To sample or purchase “Get Chicks 101” please visit:
GET THE RIGHT GUY
To sample or purchase “Get The Right Guy” please visit:
NINETY- NINE POSTS
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stan Lerner is an award winning-author whose diverse credits include the novels “Stan Lerner’s Criminal”, “Blast”, “In Development,” and the children’s book “Stanley The Elephant.” Stan Lerner is also the creator of the Las Vegas music spectacle “Night Tribe” and the writer, director, producer of the hit motion picture “Meet The Family.” Mr. Lerner was born in Montebello CA and has lived in downtown Los Angeles for the last fifteen years.
For more information about Stan Lerner please visit his author profile at: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/stan