Someone gave me this book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle. They had read it and told me they thought I'd really enjoy it. I said thank you and threw it on my nightstand where it sat in the stack for probably three months. Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest and the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries. This book is a Christian book about Boyle helping gang members. Boyle began Homeboy Industries to help gang members get jobs and to become productive members of society. It is an older book, copyright 2010. I was curious how this person had come to read it. They said after the Black Lives Matter movement they had joined an internet group that read books that expanded their view on social issues occurring today. One month they were to read Tattoos on the Heart.
"For twenty years, Gregory Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. ... Arranged by theme and filled with sparkling humor and glowing generosity, these essays offer a stirring look at how full our lives could be if we could find the joy in loving others and in being loved unconditionally."
"Tattoos on the Heart reminds us that no life is less valuable than another."
Father Boyle has received numerous humanitarian awards.
I was drawn in. This book was incredible! I felt like the Grinch whose heart grew three times that day. I had never heard of Father Boyle. I had never heard of Homeboy Industries. I had never heard of this book and I had worked in a Christian bookstore when it came out! How did that happen? I am so glad I read it. Sometimes a book impacts your heart in a remarkable way. One of the reviews of the book is: "Reading this book is a spiritually cleansing experience that won't leave you the same." Exactly.
I guess I thought of gang members as violent drug-crazed people. The bottom of society. The people we write off. As I read account after account about how Christian love can transform lives, my heart grew. When Father Boyle took a couple of the gang members to a White House dinner, I rolled with laughter. Other stories made me tear up because they were so heartbreaking. My world is so far removed from these gang members in Los Angeles and truly these people never entered my mind. Reading this book I was beginning to see them as He does. Do I believe the love of Christ can change a person? I do believe that! But sadly I don't always live like I believe that.
Father Boyle's stories are remarkable. He changed lives. But he also had a lot of failures though - people that he helped who screwed him over. But he never gave up. So the book is about his endurance to live what he believed. Jesus transforms lives. We tend to think we'll help someone and when it goes bad, we immediately give up, and we write that person off. Heck, we will write that whole group off. But a close reading of Jesus' ministry is that it was one life transformed at a time.
Each person is made in His image and deserves our love.
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After I read Tattoos on the Heart I made several memes with ideas put forth in this book. I'll leave you with a few of them.
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."