• Michael Rosen Michael Rosen
    • Investment Insights are written by Angeles' CIO Michael Rosen

      Michael has more than 30 years of experience as an institutional portfolio manager, investment strategist, and investment consultant.

    WHAT I LEARNED WHILE ATONING

    Published: 10-17-2016

    Twenty-four hours without food or drink is supposed to help focus the mind on the task at hand: atoning for the sins of the past year in hopes that your name is placed in the Book of Life for another year.

    Of course, I can’t know if I was successful this year (although I have a perfect record so far). I am pretty certain that 24 hours is not enough time even to skim the surface on my multitude of sins this past year. So I have to rely (again) on a forgiving God.

    We have a tradition, just an hour before the end of the day, to invite a guest to address us, perhaps to inspire, perhaps to take our minds off the rumblings in our bellies. All of our past speakers have been interesting, but this year I found the talk especially poignant. We heard from Father Gregory Boyle.

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    Greg Boyle is a legend in Los Angeles (and my nominee to the Nobel Committee for its Peace Prize). For many years, Father Greg was the pastor of the Dolores Mission Church, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. It was the poorest church in the diocese, right in the middle of rampant gang warfare. Father Greg (G-Dog is his street name) established a bakery in the neighborhood, a place where gang members could have a job and learn a skill. He insisted that rival gang members work next to each other. The bakery was a success, and they added a silkscreen business. A diner followed, and expanded throughout the city, including at LAX and at City Hall (where it’s the only dining option). Homeboy Industries has touched 15,000 former gang members, offering not only jobs, but education, mental health and substance abuse services, and tattoo removal (a big deal).

    Father Greg Boyle chose to dedicate his life to serving those at the margins of society: the widows, orphans and strangers, as he says. His message to us was that more than anything, more than a job or money, those who live at the margins need to feel connected to the rest of us. We all need to look beyond the tattoos and piercings and clothes to the human being in front of us. The measure of our compassion lies not in our service to others but in our willingness to see ourselves connected to them, he said.

    He told us of some of the remarkable stories of former gang members overcoming child abuse, drug abuse, violence and prison. But one phrase particularly resonated with me. He admonished us to be in awe of the poor for the burdens they carry, rather than in judgment for how they carry them.

    I could try to draw investment advice from this homily, presumably the reason you read this in the first place. But I don’t want to diminish the power of his words or the remarkable work Father Greg is doing in showing those at the margins of society the strength they always had within themselves to overcome their enormous burdens.

    Twenty-three hours into my fast, I learned that there is no better way to atone for my sins than to embrace Father Greg’s vision for us: to stand in awe of those at the margins for the burdens they carry, and not to sit in judgement for how they carry them.

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