Tattoos on the Heart By: katie rice

"I tell him that he is a giant among men. I mean it. Sharkey seems to be thrown off ballence by all this and silently stares at me. Then he says, 'Damn, G... I'm gonna tattoo that on my heart'" (Boyle xiv).

This is where tattoos on the Heart begins. Gregory Boyle takes us through some of the most Heart-wrenching stories ever told; it is truly life changing to hear them. The preface, I noticed, has a theme of beginning. We learn why Gregory began this book and a little bit about his own child hood. I particularly like the story of what this book is not. "There are several things this book knows it doesn't want to be" (Boyle xii). Gregory then goes on to tell us what it is not: it's not a memoir of his past twenty years of working with gang members, there is no narrative chronology that he follows, and it's not a how to deal with gangs book. It is simply a book about compassion, love, renewal, faith, success, and kinship.

"Turns out this is what we all have in common, gang members and nongang members alike: we're just trying to learn how to bear the beams of love" (Boyle xiii).

This chapter has a strong theme of new beginnings. These stories each gang member lives starts with a new beginning; a change of course. The gang members come to Geregory hoping to turn their lives around so that they can be proud of the life they live. This is especially true for Luis. Luis had been the biggest drug dealer in the community, but he dropped that instantly once his daughter, Tiffany, was born. He started over. He got a job at Homeboy Industries and raised his daughter; he left the gangbanging behind. This story is so touching because Louis never had that father figure in his life, but he chose to be be one for Tiffany. He created a new story; a better story.

"This became Luis's life's work. He embraced this goodness—his greatness—and nothing was the same again" (Boyle 17).
God, I Guess

"God can get tiny, if we're not careful" (Boyle 19). Sometimes we try to put God into a box, but we all have a touchstone image of God we can refer to when we stray. The most heartwarming story in this chapter is the Gregory's touchstone image of God. It is the story of a Father and a son, where the father couldn't take his eyes of of his son. This relates to the theme of God's infinate love because it is an Earthly example of how God feels towards us. He cannot take his eyes of of us; he loves each of us for who we are. We sometimes forget this truth and try and cram God into a box by limiting his power to love us. Fortunately for us God is always on the outside of that box no matter how much we mess up.

"God would seem to be too occupied in being unable to take Her eyes off us to spend any time raising an eyebrow in disapproval" (Boyle 20).

The theme of grace is really shown through Speedy's story. Speedy used to not care whether he lived or died. He would do these crazy stunts in enemy territory because he didn't care if they ended with his death. Through the grace of God, however, he turned his life upside down. God's grace is a gift to us. We can't earn it or lose it, but we do have the choice on whether or not we want to use it. Speedy chose to accept this gift of grace and use it to straighten out his life. My favorite part of his story is the ending where he explains how his family reads Harry Potter together. I think the reason I love this part so much is becuse I can relate to it. Harry Potter is a huge part of my family; we all have read them except my younger sister (she is too little). It's something we do as a family.

"If anything happened to you, it would break my heart in two" (Boyle 57).

"'...Compassion...IS...God'" (Boyle 62). This quote is how one of the inmates from Folsom Prison describe compassion, and I think it is one of the most accurate way to describe it. Jesus was constantly showing compassion to everyone. He showed compassion to the poor, the sinners, the outcasts, and even to those who crucified Him. God is made up of compassion. My favorite story of compassion is Dolores Mission Church letting undocumented immigrants sleep in the Church. They did this even though the smell made members of the church unhappy. They did this becuse it's what God would do, and God is compassion. By giving them a place to sleep, they showed the homeless a great deal of compassion.

"Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it" (Boyle 67).
Water, Oil, Flame

This is a chapter on new awakenings. One huge new awakening is Baptism. "The moment of a homie's baptism can be an awakening, like the clearing of a new path" (Boyle 83). Baptism is a way to start over for the homies. We see this through the story of George and Cisco. George and Cisco are brothers, and the Friday night before George's Baptism, Cisco is killed. Boyle goes through with the Baptism, but after he tells George what has happened. Normally the homies respond with rage and anger, but George didn't respond like that. "It is as if the commitment he had just made in water, oil, and flame has taken hold and his grief is pure and true and more resembles the heartbreak of God" (Boyle 86). George's Baptism had changes him. He didn't lash out in anger at the news, he resembled the hearbreak of God.

"It's the community of unconditional love, representing the very 'no matter whatness' of God" (Boyle 87).
Slow Works

The theme of this chapter is the slow works of God. Not everything God does happens right away. Slowly over time, God changes us and brings us closer to Him. For example, when Gregory first meets Grumpy, Grumpy wants nothing to do with Homboy industries. Gregory even offers to take off his tattoos for free, but he refuses. About five months later, he runs into Grumpy, and this time Grumpy is ready to get help from Homeboy Industries. He wants his tattoos removed. This shows the slow works of God. Grumpy didn't want help right away, it took some time for him to accept help from Gregory. But in the end he asked for helped all the same.

"Ours is a God who waits" (Boyle 113).

Jurisdiction is a big theme in this Chapter. Father Gregory is the jurisdiction for almost all of the homies at Homeboy Industires. Junior, a homie in his forties, even told Gregory once that he was his Jurisdiction. My favorite story in this chapter is about Chepe and Richie. They go to a restaurant for the first time, and their hostess is really rude. She judges them immediately for what's on the outside rather than who they are as a person. Fortunately, their waitress is Jesus in an apron. She is so kind to them and doesn't look at them as some terrible criminal. I like this story because it shows how much one person can make you feel, whether it be negative or positive. The hostess made the boys feel uncomfortable, like they didn't belong, but the waitress made them feel special, like a somebody.

"Later as we walked to the car, they talked about our waitress. 'She was firme.' 'Yeah, she treated us like we were somebody'" (Boyle 136).

The theme gladness is shown through the story of Spider. When he and his sister were younger, they practically raised themselves. They had no parent models in their life. Spider is now a father himself of two little boys, and he takes great pleasure in being a father. He tells Boyle all about how he refuses to eat till his children are full. After the boys and his lady have had their share, he will eat. He confesses that sometimes there is food left over and sometimes there isn't. This isn't a hard thing to do for him, it's just a fatherly thing. He will gladly give up his food for his children and wife. I like this story because it reminds me of my dad. I have notice that he will often waits till we pile our plates with food before he gets his. We always had enough to eat, that has never been a problem, but it still makes me feel special. It makes you feel loved.

"Jesus says, 'My ways are not your ways,' but they sure could be" (Boyle 150).

Scrappy is a homie who once pointed a gun at Gregory. He changed his ways and came to Homeboy industries to work on the graffiti crew. Sadly, he was shot and killed a couple of months after his employment. He was painting over graffiti when he was gunned down. When I hear this story I sometimes wonder whether or not he was a success. Scrappy turned his life around only to be kill a short time later. What I have come to realize is yes, Scrappy is a success story. He successfully pulled himself out of the darkness to do good. He lived a better and more full life, which to me is a great success. I like this story because it really ties into the theme of success. All these homies who have turned their lives around have accomplished something huge.

"If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God's business" (Boyle 168)

Kinship is a very powerful thing. It can change your life. By creating kinship, you remember that you belong, and that you are wanted. Kinship is not just serving others; it's being with others. Jesus showed us a great example of kinship through His works of mercy to the outcasts. He didn't just help the leper after he cured him, he touched him long before the disease was gone. One of the most impactful stories of kinship is Alex's story. On the way home from the White House, he made a flight attendant cry. He told her all about his job and how he made history the other day. She cried because she saw him as a somebody; she recognizeed him as the shape of God's heart. This is exactly the kinship God had in mind.

"I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice—we would be celebrating it" (Boyle 187).

This book is a book filled with inspiration. Each story written in this book is a success story that we can all learn from. The struggles these people had to go through have changed my heart. I had never even hear story's as terrifying and beautiful as these. I'm so glad I got to read this book, for it opened my mind to a new way of thinking; a better way of thinking. I realize so much of what I take for granted is stuff these gang members don't have. This book will continually inspire me as I go through life. This book is 'GREAT'.

"And so the voice at the margins get heard and the circle of compassion widens. Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other. No bullet can pierce this. The vision still has its time, and, yes, it presses on to fulfillment. It will not disappoint. And yet, if it delays, we can surely wait for it" (Boyle 212).


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