Tattoos on the Heart.

20 04 2010

We’d like to share a book review of Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle written by a former Jesuit Volunteer, Sarah Patterson:

“For any JVC Northwest folk who loved Gary Smith SJ’s book Radical Compassion,  there is a new Jebbie on the block, writing in this genre of books that crack open your heart, one lovely or horrific story at a time.  Greg Boyle SJ, a Los Angeles based Jesuit who has spent a lifetime working with gangs in the barrios, has written a luminescent collection of experiences that reminds us why we stand with the poor, with them as fellow travelers rather than “staff” of some (perhaps) sanctimonious organization dictating terms of engagement.

 Greg Boyle is a founder of Homeboy Industries in LA http://www.homeboy-industries.org/index.php  This enormous nonprofit  runs a bakery, a cafe, a silk screen business, sells merchandise, manufactures goods – all businesses with a sub text of giving jobs and job readiness training to Angelenos who want to take a step out of gang life, before or after they serve prison sentences.  They provide case management, remove tattoos, work with parole officers and churches, they have tentacles into the community everyplace they can make an impact.  Greg Boyle walks into the middle of fights and talks people down, has an open door for any sobbing young person who needs a shoulder.  He sits with screaming mothers who have just seen a son shot on their front steps, rushes to emergency room to anoint a young man he has befriended and employed, who lies paralyzed from the eyes down from a bullet.  He speaks simple words of admiration and encouragement to people who never hear that.

 He never gives up on anyone.  He jokes that his staff considered a motto: “You Can’t Disappoint Us Enough!”  As this business model has expanded, Greg Boyle is on the road, always with a couple of homies, doing 200 speaking gigs a year to spread the word.  He speaks truth to power, and truth to every kid in his neighborhood, truth to guests at dinners in the White House where Laura Bush invited him after a visit to Homeboy.  The kids he has plucked out of the madness move away, marry, raise families and keep their own kids out of La Vida.  Through it all, with the art of a burnished homilist, he ties the work to gospel values, creating an approachable and digestible spirituality that hits the head and the heart with equal force.  Anne Lamott describes it as ‘tender beyond my ability to describe.’  It is full of Resurrection.”

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