It’s all about vulnerability, risking heart-openness, especially to those deemed less than, in our perception. We shrink back, giving credence to the implicit command in our culture to be safe at all times. “Don’t go in there! He smells!” so we’re warned.

 

Yet there is such a man who for two decades has wedded himself to the violent/tender world of the “homies” and “homegirls,” slang for the Latino gangbusters roaming the Los Angeles projects, approximately 86,000 of them, according to the estimate of Los Angeles County.

 

Founder of Homeboy Industries, he rides his bicycle through the projects, woos some into gainful employment, some into tattoo removal, mostly shares his father’s heart by remembering their given or gang names. Affectionately in return, many call him “G.” and rain him with their love, often seeking brief “fixes” in his office. They know he speaks their language, from his heart.

 

Wherever trouble constellates, in hospitals, in jails, in gang wars, he tends the wounds of his kids. However, 187 of them have not made it, and he has presided over their funerals, consoled the grieving, and defused the revenge seekers’ plots to do “justice,” not without his own tears.

 

“G.” honors these decades of stories and has collated them into the book, Tattoos on the Heart – the power of boundless compassion (2010), a riveting read. As poignant as these vignettes are, presented in a rapid-fire pace, of more importance is the storyteller’s heart, totally transformed into the gang colors of the tattoo artist. This, he lets us see.

 His name is Gregory Boyle, a white bearded Jesuit priest with a huge belly laugh, drawn to love the broken around him. Jesus did the same!

100_0688

 

Advertisements