Tattoos on the Heart Kelly nowak

Tattoos on the Heart is a book by Father Greg Boyle and how he founded Homeboy Industries. He spent twenty years working with gang members but he says the book isn't about how to deal with gangs. It's a book of stories that show God, Jesus, compassion, kinship, redemption, mercy, and our common call to delight one another.


The Preface and Intro discuss how we shouldn't see some lives having less value than others. When Fr. Greg works with the homies he sees the good in them and sees that they have a potential for a good future no matter what they've done or where they've come from. He founded Homeboy Industries to help them with things like jobs or even just having someone to talk to. I think the most inspiring story is the one of Sharkey, who was hard to work with for Fr. Greg. Fr. Greg switched his method and instead of criticizing Sharkey for what he did wrong he praised him for what he did right. Sharkey tells Fr. Greg, "... I'm gonna tattoo that on my heart." I think that this story goes along with the overall theme of the Preface because Sharkey was used to being talking down on and you can see how much it affected him when Fr. Greg treated him equal and saw he was good.

Fr. Greg, founder of Homeboy Industries
"In Africa they say, 'A person becomes a person through other people.'"

Chapter 1: God, I Guess

In chapter 1, the theme is about God. Fr. Greg tried to show his homies God's love and that they were seen as perfect by God the way that they were. They would realize that God loves every one equally and he loves to love us. I think the story that shows this most is the story of Willy. Willy was a homie who went to the ATM with Fr. Greg to get money for food. Fr. Greg makes Willy stay in the car and instead of letting him listen to the radio he tells him to pray. Willy listens to God for the first time and when he does he realizes that God sees him as firme, or could not be one bit better.

Chapter 2: Dis-Grace

This chapter title related because Fr. Greg talks about how every homie feels like they are a disgrace to their families and are less than others. Fr. Greg says that God dissolves our shame and fills us with mercy. I think the most touching story in this chapter is the one of Speedy. Speedy was one of Fr. Greg's most stressful homies to work with. He had a mindset wher he didn't care if he lived or died until a woman he didn't even know told him if anything happened to him her heart would break. It made Speedy realize he was worth something and he went on to live a good life, married his high school sweetheart, and had three children.

"There is a longing in us all to be God-enthralled. So enthralled that to those hunkered down in their disgrace, in the shadow of death, we become transparent messengers of God’s own tender mercy."

Chapter 3: Compassion

This chapter is about compassion and how it isn't just something that is fleeting. Compassion is God and it is different from sympathy and empathy because it is always there and part of a person. I think that one of the saddest stories in the whole book is in this chapter. The story of Betito tells how he was a young boy who was always funny, full of energy, and always has a positive attitude. He came to Homeboy Industries after school and always make Fr. Greg laugh with the English phrases he would try to pick up on. He was shot and the bullet went through his waist, paralyzing his legs. He went to the hospital and they thought he would survive but he ended up dying two hours later at the age of only twelve.

Chapter 4: Water, Oil, Flame

This chapter title relates to the things used during baptisms. In this chapter, Fr. Greg talks a lot about him baptizing homies and it being like a new beginning for them. I think that Miguel also shows a new beginning in a different way from being baptized. Fr. G asks Miguel what he did for Christmas and he responds that he invited over 5 friends who used to all be from rival gangs. Fr. Greg asks how Miguel is so kind and giving after all that he's been through. Miguel responds that one day he saw the goodness in his heart and since then nothing has been able to touch him. Miguel had a new beginning that he found in himself and since then tried to be a better, happier person full of the goodness that God gave him.

"He says straight out,'You are light.' It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it."

Chapter 5: Slow Work

Sometimes God's work can seem like it is slow and never coming at the right time. We need to learn to wait for what God wants us to do and wants to happen to us. You can be asking God for a change in your life and it can seem like he isn't listening, but he is just waiting for the right time. Part of it is us, we can't just keep waiting for change we have to decide that we want it and then work for it. I think a story that goes along with this is the one of Omar. Omar was a seventeen year old who was always in and out of detention facilities. He had been like this for a while without change until he talked to Fr. Greg. Omar asks Fr. Greg how many homies he has buried. When he hears there has been 75, he decided there needs to be a change, and Fr. Greg tells him it starts when you decide.

Chapter 6: Jurisdiction

This chapter discusses how we are always in each other's jurisdictions. We need to let everyone in and not have any labels or exclude people. God's jurisdiction is perfect because we don't worry about being excluded when we are all included in his jurisdiction of endless acceptance and love. I think a good story that shows this is the one where Richie and Chepe go to a fancy restaurant for the first time. The other rich people gave them strange looks for being there because they didn't look like they belonged, but their waitress treated them like they were somebody.

"Until I discovered that it always becomes impossible to demonize someone you know."

Chapter 7: Gladness

I think the best thing Fr. Greg says in this book comes from this chapter. He talks about how God created us because he thought it would make us happy, so we need to feel his delight with us and put it back into the world. The homie who I think shows the most gladness in this chapter is Spider. Spider has a wife and two kids and every night he watches them all eat their dinner. Then he thanks God that they are in his life and he shows his gratitude that they are full and happy. And then he takes his first bite of his own food.

Chapter 8: Success

In this chapter Fr. Greg talks about how we all want to be successful. Being successful is hard and we will fall and fail a lot of times, so we can't only focus on being more successful that others because if we do that we can lose our faithfulness. We have to trust God and place our success in his hands. A story that spoke to me in this chapter is the one of Shady. She has a strange dream and talks to Fr. Greg thinking it means her daughter is going to die, but later that same night it's Shady who is killed. This doesn't seem like s story of success because she was killed but Fr. Greg said that dying isn't failure when you compare it to the faithfulness and love of God.

"We are not called to be successful, but faithful."

Chapter 9: Kinship

This chapter is about kinship, which means having a blood relationship or sharing origins. Once we recognize that we all have kinship with one another we will start treating eachother better because we will see that we are all one. My favorite story from this chapter is the one of Richard. He finds an old photograph of himself when he was ten and the photo is only about an inch. He goes to a photo store and asks them to make it bigger and when they do it turns really low quality but Richard loves the photo anyways. Fr. Greg says that the story isn't just about a photograph it's about Richard being able to see himself as somebody despite what other people tell him.

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