As I get ready for Thanksgiving Day I’m thinking of Speedy, “a thrill seeker in the world of project gangbanging,” as the Jesuit Greg Boyle describes him in his terrific book Tattoos on the Heart. Speedy hailed from a broken family, left the gangs, worked his way out of the projects, and made a life.
One day, Speedy tells Greg about how he encourages his three children to read. They go to Barnes & Noble after Mass every Sunday and read for two hours. “They be havin’ comfortable chairs at Barnes & Noble,” he says. Then Speedy chokes up, talking about how proud he is, watching his children read. “You’ve got a good life,” Greg tells him, and Speedy’s tears flow.
So I think of Speedy, whom I don’t know, and many people I do know, who have overcome terrible obstacles to have good lives. They are the people Natalie Merchant sings about in “Life Is Sweet.” (Full lyrics here. If you can’t see the video, click here.)
They told you life is hard
Misery from the start, it’s dull
It’s slow, it’s painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There’s so much more, be grateful