Annotations: Ever-Expanding Community

“No daylight to separate us. Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
―Gregory Boyle, SJ, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

In this quote, Fr. Boyle calls us here to continually expand our community—to open that circle and position ourselves at the margins. To let others in, to stand with those who are left out, and to always be mindful of those we have not yet included.

Here at USF, we also work to continually expand our circle of compassion, to move closer to the margins, and to ask who is left out. We can see this in the University’s shift in demographics from an all-male, largely white student population after WWII to today’s much more diverse student body; in our attention to inclusive language; and in our efforts to stand with and support marginalized communities on campus, in the Bay Area, and worldwide.

But as Boyle notes, this is a goal, a dream that we imagine, a vision that we work to achieve. We will never fully reach it, and so we must be continually reflective, looking beyond the boundaries of our circle to ask who is not yet included and why, and how we  might move ourselves closer to them. 

Questions for Reflection

  • Expanding our circle of compassion can be personally challenging; it might require us to rethink our perspective on others, and to ask more deeply how we can forgive and reconcile. How can you find that strength and love in yourself to expand that circle of compassion and include everyone?
  • Gregory Boyle calls on us to move to the margins, as opposed to inviting others into our world. Why is that important? How does that change in perspective affect the way in which you see yourself in relation to those who are marginalized?

Boyle, Gregory. (14 February 2010). Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. Free Press.