Tattoos On The Heart Book Summary, by Gregory Boyle

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Overall Summary

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (2010) is a memoir written by Greg Boyle. It tells about his experiences working with gang members in Los Angeles, California. He learned Spanish while he was living in Bolivia and still speaks it today. In Bolivia, he saw poverty and hunger firsthand, which inspired him to help people who are poor or hungry when he returned home to Los Angeles.

After returning from his mission in Bolivia, Boyle requested to be sent somewhere where he could continue to help the poor. He was granted that wish when he was assigned to the Dolores Mission Church, which served a parish of poor people. In this church, Boyle saw many gang members who were unable to improve their lives because they were treated like lepers by others.

Boyle started interviewing gang members to find out what they wanted most. They always said that they wanted a job. He then created an organization called Homeboy Industries, which helped gang members get jobs and leave their former lifestyles behind.

Tattoos on the Heart is a book that revolves around Boyle’s experiences of working with gang members and their families. The book attempts to show how people who have committed crimes can still be worthy of God’s love, and it also shows how compassion can help them change their ways. It also includes several stories about Boyle’s personal life as well as his interactions with other people.

In the end, Boyle refuses to say if his efforts have been successful because he is merely following his faith.

This guide uses the 2010 edition of “The Elements of Style” by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Full Summary of Tattoos On The Heart

Overall Summary

In the 1980s, Father Gregory Boyle began to preach at a Catholic church in Los Angeles. He witnessed how much gang violence there was and felt that he could make a difference by using his religious training. He reformed the rules of the church and made it more welcoming to people who were not members of gangs. He also started a school program for those students who had been expelled from their regular schools because they belonged to gangs. Finally, with help from philanthropist Ray Stark, he founded Homeboy Industries, which provides employment opportunities as well as tattoo removal services for ex-gang members looking for change in their lives.

The book is about the different people who Boyle has met and interacted with over the years. Boyle goes into detail about each person’s background, his or her involvement in gangs, and what he learned from them.

One of the hardest parts of Boyle’s job is to bury the dead. He has buried over a hundred people since he began working at Dolores Mission Church, including many children. At funerals, he witnesses a strong sense of shame and self-hatred among attendees. Many people who live in the area hate themselves and don’t believe they’re worthy of love or anything better than being part of a gang. However, there are some young people who develop a sense of self-respect and manage to get away from gangs and lead normal lives with families and careers for themselves.

Boyle is surprised at how quickly gang members respond to kindness and decency. They’ve never had a proper family life, so they join gangs for support. Boyle draws inspiration from Jesus Christ’s example of being kind to those who are shunned by society.

Another important theme of Boyle’s time in Los Angeles is the importance of family and love. Many people in LA focus on material success, but they should also think about their obligations to other human beings. Boyle believes that everybody should feel kinship with others, even if those others are very different from them. He has thought a lot about this concept recently because he was diagnosed with leukemia in the early 2000s. When he treats gang members at Homeboy Industries with respect and love, they become proud, responsible, and kind as well.

Boyle ends his book by encouraging the reader to listen to those who are different from them.

Introduction

Father Gregory Boyle became the youngest pastor in the history of his parish, Dolores Mission Church. It’s located in Los Angeles and is a very poor neighborhood with many gangs.

Over the years at Dolores, Boyle witnesses many deaths of young people. In 1988, he buries a victim of gang violence named Danny. Since then, he’s buried 167 more victims.

Boyle notices that many middle schoolers who get involved with gang violence are kicked out of school. But this makes the problem worse, since these youths spend their time around public housing projects, where they can continue to commit crimes. So Boyle decides to open a school for children involved in gang violence, Dolores Mission Alternative School. Working at the school is a nightmare because there are fights every day and many teachers quit because it’s so hard to work there. However, Boyle knows how important his work is: by welcoming gang members into a place that was once reserved for “good people,” he challenges the idea of what church should be like and welcomes everyone into God’s house regardless of their pasts or current actions.

Over time, more and more gang members attended Boyle’s church. He also had them in his school. Boyle reasoned that if they were spending time in the church, they wouldn’t be committing crimes. Some parishioners disagreed with him but he insisted that the church has a Christian duty to welcome everyone.

In 1988, Boyle realized that gang members needed jobs more than anything. He organized programs to give them work cleaning up neighborhoods and removing graffiti. The program put a lot of financial strain on the parish, but he kept it running.

During the late ’80s and ’90s, Boyle helped organize peace treaties between rival gangs. In retrospect, he saw that he gave them “oxygen” by agreeing to talk with them.

Boyle was shocked when Los Angeles went up in flames after the Rodney King verdict. There were fires and angry mobs throughout the city, and it took a few days for the National Guard to restore order. However, Boyle’s neighborhood was one of the safest during those times because gangs had an incentive to keep peace.

After the interview, Boyle gets a call from Ray Stark. Stark is a famous Hollywood agent who wanted to make an impact on gang violence in Los Angeles. Boyle suggested that he buy some property and convert it into a meeting place for rival gangs. This became the Homeboy Bakery where gang members could meet and find employment opportunities with Homeboy Industries, which later expanded to other cities like New York City and Chicago.

In the 1990s, Homeboy Industries grows and begins to offer more opportunities for gang members. It also provides tattoo removal surgeries and other services. By 2000, it employs over a thousand people in its five businesses.

Boyle is proud of what he’s done with Homeboy Industries, but he realizes that there are many gang members in his city and only a fraction of them can be helped. He thinks that the organization can help former gang members “crawl before they walk” and then “walk before they run.”

Homeboy Bakery was destroyed in a fire. The author, however, assumed that gangs had burned the bakery down. He later found out that it was just an accident. Many of the employees cried when they saw their former workplace burning to the ground. Ten years after this incident, many of these same employees returned to Homeboy Industries and worked at its new bakery.

At the Homeboy Bakery, Boyle has a man named Luis who is a former drug dealer. After having his daughter, he becomes an employee of Homeboy Industries and starts working for them. He playfully teases Boyle about using the word “great” too much—something that he claims all white people do. As time goes on, Luis earns more money and supports his daughter better than before.

Boyle remembers Luis when he speaks at the funeral. He argues that Luis was right to use his life to do good, even if it came to a sudden end. Boyle remembers Julian of Norwich who said that the purpose of life is to discover God’s goodness and Luis did just that before he died.

Chapter 1

Boyle remembers his friend Bill Cain’s father. He was very sick with cancer, and he didn’t want to sleep at night because he wanted to spend time with his son. Boyle thinks of God as being like that—always watching over us and loving us.

In 1990, reporters came to Boyle’s church to report on his work in the community. They were surprised by what they found: instead of criminals, they saw students who trusted him and knew he would protect them. This was because God told Boyle that he had a special mission for him to help others. In this chapter, Boyle will talk about how God inspired him to do great things.

Boyle is certain that God is more compassionate than people can imagine. One night, Boyle’s student Willy comes to him for help. Boyle doesn’t have much money on him but he drives Willy to get a meal at the local diner. While they are waiting for their food, Boyle tells Willy to pray and ask God what he should do with his life. When they return to the car after getting some food, Boyle realizes that something has changed about Willy—he seems humbler and calmer now. He asks why this might be, and it turns out that while praying in the car earlier, God told him that he was firme—meaning loved by God and respected by others around him.

Boyle has always been taught that God loves everyone. He’s a priest and tries to spread the same love of God he feels as an adult to his congregation. It can be very humbling for someone to understand that they’re not greater than anyone else, but it also inspires people because it makes them feel like they are connected with something larger than themselves.

Boyle visits a teenager named Rigo, who lives in an institution. His father is a drug addict and he beats him whenever he feels like it. However, Rigo still loves his mother because she visits him every Sunday at the institution. Boyle argues that God’s love for humanity is even greater than Rigo’s love for his mother. It’s hard to believe there exists someone capable of total love.

Boyle gets a call from Cesar, who has just gotten out of jail. He asks if Boyle will pick him up and help him out. Later on, Cesar tells Boyle that he’s always thought of Boyle as his father and that he wants to be like him someday. Then, Cesar shyly asks if Boyle thinks of him as a son. Without hesitation, Boyle says yes.

In 2004, Boyle meets Scrappy again after not seeing him for years. In 1989, they meet at a funeral for one of Scrappy’s friends. At this time, Scrappy gives Boyle an intense look and walks out the door without saying anything to him. Three years later, in 1992, Boyle breaks up a fight between two gangs and tells them that he doesn’t want any trouble from them because he respects their leader (Scrappy).

When Boyle sees Scrappy again in 2004, he is a calmer person. He sits down with Boyle and tells him that he has never disrespected him. He explains that over the last twenty years, he’s tried to undo what he did as a teenager. He begins to cry and admits his wrongdoings. Boyle hires Scrappy because of this change in attitude.

Shortly after being ordained as a priest, Boyle works in Bolivia, tending to poor and uneducated congregants. His Spanish is atrocious so he finds it difficult to communicate with them. He also crosses paths with an old Quechua man who calls him “tatai,” which means “father.” God’s love for humanity is greater than any that Boyle has ever experienced from another person. This often comes to mind when he does his nonprofit work.

Chapter 2

On Saturdays, Boyle goes to a prison and gives Mass. Then he returns to his church and performs baptisms, weddings, and other important ceremonies. One Saturday, during a brief break in his schedule between religious duties, Boyle gets a visit from Carmen. She’s an addict who works as a prostitute. She asks for help getting off drugs because she feels like it’s holding her back in life.

Boyle has read that people become addicted to drugs because of their sense of shame. The same could be said for gang members, who turn to a life of danger and violence because they don’t believe they’re worthy of a good, happy life. However, deep down all people long to love God and feel God’s love in return.

One day, a young man named Danny sets off a firecracker in the neighborhood. Boyle sees it happen and runs out of his office to confront him. Boyle gives Danny five dollars for food because he knows that Danny didn’t set off the firecracker on purpose. He’s trying to teach him not to be ashamed about what happened because shame comes from an absence of self-love, which can be overcome with God’s help.

Boyle now discusses a man named Lula. Boyle has known him since he was in the fifth grade, and is currently around twenty years old. He’s been in special education classes throughout his school career. Lula loves being at church, as it gives him the support system that he needs to get through life with F’s on all of his report cards.

Boyle argues that the poor are not suffering because they’re poor, but rather, it’s their self-hatred. He has seen people who suffer from low self-esteem and knows how toxic it is.

Boyle, a priest, speaks to one of his congregants. The young man claims that his name is Sniper but admits that it’s actually Napoleón (Napito) Gonzalez. Boyle thinks it’s important for people to be honest about their names because they want to feel like the person they really are. He remembers teaching a sullen teenager who claimed his name was Cricket but when he found out that Cricket’s real name was William, he felt closer to him and noticed an improvement in their relationship.

Boyle recalls a teenager named Speedy. He would risk his life to walk home a woman on whom he had a crush, which required him to walk through rival gang’s territory. One day, Yolanda tells him that it would break her heart if anything happened to him and shortly afterwards he marries and moves away with his wife. Years later, Speedy comes back to Los Angeles and takes Boyle out for dinner where they talk about family and religion. As Boyle listens to Speedy speak about his children with pride, he thinks of how far Speedy has come from the wreck of his “disfigured” self.

Chapter 3

In 1993, Boyle teaches a course on theological issues in American short fiction. One of his students defines compassion as “God.” Boyle completely agrees with this definition, since he believes that God is the ultimate example of compassion.

In the early days of Homeboy Industries, an organization that trains and employs former gang members to help them reintegrate into society, the founder spends a lot of time with a twelve-year-old boy named Betito. Although he’s raised speaking Spanish, Betito quickly learns English and is very smart. One evening while playing with his cousin, he gets caught in crossfire between rival gangs. He was shot by one of the bullets and died in the hospital later that night.

Boyle often thinks about Betito. He finds it hard not to hate the two men who opened fire that Sunday, leading directly to Betito’s death. However, he tries to be compassionate towards them because they’re sinners and “to have compassion for everyone means understanding what unfortunate people have to carry.”

Boyle remembers a teenager named Looney, who belongs to a local gang. Boyle meets with Looney just after Looney’s gotten out of juvenile detention and everyone in the parish is delighted with his return. They all congratulate him on getting good grades in prison and he becomes overwhelmed by their praise. He admits that he wants to have a life outside of the gang now that he’s been given this second chance at living.

One reason sinners continue to sin is that they feel like outcasts. Jesus didn’t treat them as outcasts, but instead ate with them. Boyle also eats pizza with Looney and gives him the love he needs to thrive.

A church in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles is a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. The church has been controversial at times for their work with undocumented immigrants, but one day someone spray-paints “wetback church” outside the building. The pastor of the church wants to clean it up, but Petra Saldana says that they shouldn’t remove it because Christ was proud to help outcasts and he endured people’s insults when he did so.

One day, a former member of the community drives by Dolores Church and talks to Boyle. He is surprised to see that the church is full of addicts, gang members, and other social outcasts. He says, “This used to be a church.” To which Boyle replies, “It’s finally a church.” The beauty of compassion lies in its ability to bring people together with those who are unlike them.

Boyle meets a young man named Anthony, who is homeless and sells drugs to support himself. Boyle takes him in at his church, and he begins to learn about Anthony’s background. He discovers that Anthony wants to be a mechanic or an engineer, so he convinces his friend Dennis, the mechanic, to hire Anthony as an apprentice. Slowly but surely, with hard work and determination from both of them, they begin working towards their goals.

Boyle gives a speech at the University of Montana. He is accompanied by two men who spent their childhood in his church, Matteo and Julian. Both speak about the time they spent with Boyle and how much he means to them. At one point, Matteo tells him that he loves him so much, making Boyle cry. Afterward, a newspaper writes an article praising the speech. This makes Matteo feel like somebody because it shows that people care about what he has to say.

Boyle officiated his first wedding in Bolivia. The couple was Quechua, and they refused to take communion, despite Boyle’s encouragement. It occurs to him that the Quechua have always turned down communion—in doing so, they’ve chosen to be “outside” of communion, and Christianity, forever. Perhaps the feeling of outsiderness is “the opposite of God.”

Boyle continues: “At this moment I begin to understand what mission means… it is not about getting them into a church; it is about bringing Christ into their lives wherever they are… The church has been trying for 2,000 years and we haven’t done it yet.”

Boyle takes Memo and Miguel on a tour to some of the poorest areas in Alabama. Memo is so moved by what he sees that he starts crying. He tells Boyle, “I feel compassion for other people’s suffering. I want everyone to be able to feel this way.” Eventually, Boyle hopes that all people will have this same feeling towards others who are different from them.

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Chapter 4

Over the years, Boyle has baptized thousands of people in Los Angeles. He’s seen adults he baptized twenty years ago. In 1996, he baptizes a teenager named George Martinez, who takes his GED shortly after this ceremony and then is murdered by gang members just days later. The baptism represents an important part of George’s life—the moment when he agrees to embrace God and find courage to live a happy life despite the tragedy that has befallen him.

Boyle recounts a story of a young man who worked for Homeboy Industries. He called Boyle on New Year’s Day and told him that he had started cooking dinner for his family, which was something he never thought possible before. Boyle then met the young man in person, and the young man confessed to him that he always knew there was something good inside of himself but didn’t know how to find it until now.

Boyle recalls a young woman named Terry who used to come to the church. She would wear a short, red dress and often asked Boyle to promise that he’d bury her in it because she thought she was going to die soon. Many of the women who came into the church had this same fear—that they wouldn’t live long enough to have children.

Many of the gang members Boyle meets grew up without a father. Some had fathers, but they were abusive.

Boyle writes about a young woman named Natalie Urritia. She was in prison for a year, and she has two children. Boyle wonders what kind of person she’d be if her childhood had been different. Once, he dreams that Natalie is going to sing at an event before thousands of people who think she’s terrible because they’ve never heard her sing before. But when she starts singing, the crowd falls silent because her voice is beautiful and moving.

Homeboy Industries is different from Los Angeles gangs in that Homeboy offers unconditional love to its members, whereas LA gangs offer conditional love and support. If you do something wrong, they can punish or even kill you. Conversely, Homeboy will always help their congregants regardless of what they’ve done.

One day, Boyle was working when a young kid wandered into his office. The boy insisted that Boyle stay still so he could draw him. Afterward, the drawing turned out to be hideous because, according to the boy, “You moved”. This episode revealed how God works: God can see the beauty in everyone and everything; even if it or they move and seem imperfect.

Boyle meets a teenager who has been abused by his mother. The boy ran away from home at the age of 13 because he was afraid that she would hurt him again. Boyle offers to take care of the boy and make sure that he doesn’t get into trouble with gangs. During Mike Wallace’s visit, Andres thinks that Wallace is calling him an asshole for going against what his abusive mother wants for him, but later admits to Boyle that he wanted to punch Wallace in the face after hearing what he said about not giving up on himself. After seeing how much Andres’ mother hates her son, Boyle is amazed when Andres forgives her and continues moving forward in life instead of letting it hold him back like she does.

Boyle has discovered that his students and congregants tend to believe they’re not good enough. They feel like their flaws are proof of this unworthiness. Gangsters in particular have a tendency to grow attached to their weaknesses, since it gives them an excuse for why they can’t achieve more. Boyle’s mission is to draw these people’s attention away from their flaws and towards the qualities that make them worthy individuals, so that they can overcome those obstacles and succeed in life.

Boyle recalls a man named Fabian who is now employed and has three children. At 19, Boyle took him along to Washington D.C., where he gave a speech with him and Felipe, an enemy from Fabian’s gang. They got along well on the trip and watched movies together. According to Boyle, Fabian was incredibly friendly; he could make friends easily with anyone that he encountered.

A few years ago, Boyle started receiving a lot of awards for his two decades working with gang members. He always gives them to one of his former students or employees. One time, he chose a teenager named Elias Montes to accept an award from Loyola Marymount University. The audience was impressed by Elias’ speech and the way he handled himself on stage.

Boyle talks about Jason, a former gang member who was shot and killed. Boyle remembers that he was once angry like Jason, but eventually found the courage to let go of his anger forever.

Chapter 5

David is a teenage boy who works at Homeboy Industries. One day, he walks into Boyle’s office and tells him that someone told him Boyle’s lectures are boring. He admits this isn’t true; he just wants to practice using big words.

Boyle knows a teenager named Omar. He asks Boyle how many people he’s buried because of gangbanging, and the answer is seventy-five. This shocks Omar, who whispers “When will it end?” Boyle replies, “It will end when you decide to change.” Change awaits us all.

At a Mass for a dead gang member, Boyle meets Grumpy. Boyle offers to remove Grumpy’s tattoos when he gets out of jail. Grumpy sneers and says that if he removes them then why did he get them in the first place? Unfazed, Boyle replies by telling him to call him when his head comes out of his butt. A couple months later, they meet again at a basketball game and Grumpy tells Boyle that he wants to have his tattoos removed now.

Waiting is a big part of Boyle’s life, but he wasn’t always good at it. There was a time when he tried to help someone get the kind of job that Boyle wanted him to have, but it didn’t work out because the person didn’t want what Boyle wanted for him. However, some months later, the person called and said that he had changed his mind about having a peaceful life and now worked as an animal shelter supervisor.

A gang member named Psycho died, and his friends organized a funeral for him. Boyle attended the ceremony and saw hardened gang members crying over their friend’s death. One of them, Carlos, told Boyle that Psycho had predicted his own demise but still wanted to help out with the funeral arrangements.

Some gang members get trapped in cycles of despair and hopelessness. However, Joey was able to break out of that cycle because he had hope for his future. He wanted to provide for his family by getting a job at Chuck E Cheese’s, even though he was embarrassed about it.

A former gang member, Bugsy, asks Boyle to buy him shoes. Boyle agrees but then tells him a story about two men who both grew up in rival gangs. One is incarcerated and calls the Homeboy Industries (a non-profit organization that helps former gang members) asking for help getting out of prison. The other man answers the phone and instead of fighting with the first guy he passes it on to his associate. It turns out that both men were once part of a rival gang, but one was released from prison after changing his ways while the other was still imprisoned for being violent towards others when he should have been working on himself; this shows how important it is to work on yourself as opposed to hurting others because you’re angry or upset at them for something they did in their past lives.

One day, Boyle gets some bad news. A fight broke out between two former gang members who work with Homeboy Industries and one of them accidentally injured a woman while she was working at Boyle’s school. The woman is okay but the man responsible for her injury is guilty looking and scared to death when he finds out that it was his own mother that got hurt.

The Bible says that love is patient and kind. Boyle pays special attention to this passage because he has heard it thousands of times, but the words seem especially meaningful when a kid reads them at Mass. The kid speaks with such sincerity that Boyle believes in the power of love to change people and society.

Boyle recalls a former gang member named Pedro, who currently works for him as a case manager. Years before, Pedro began using drugs heavily. With Boyle’s encouragement, he entered rehab and was able to become clean. But his brother committed suicide during that time in rehab. He felt terrible about the loss of his brother but didn’t allow himself to fall back into addiction because he knew it would hurt his family even more than the death of their loved one had already done so. Later on, Pedro confesses to Boyle that “light is better than darkness.” His brother just never found the light.

Chapter 6

As he walks to work, Boyle sees a man who drinks constantly. One day, the man yells out “love you” and then explains that it’s because Boyle is in his jurisdiction. When people draw lines around their jurisdictions (or what they think are theirs), it’s often meant to exclude others.

Boyle tries to let as many people into his jurisdiction as possible—and this means loving them unconditionally.

Boyle recalls a gang member named Flaco who deals drugs and uses the drug PCP. He gets very high, then stumbles onto the 101 Freeway. He’s hit by a car and loses an arm as a result of that accident. Boyle visits Flaco in the hospital, but he also overhears rival gang members saying they’re glad about what happened to Flaco last night. Enraged by their comments, Boyle tells them never to talk that way again because it’s unacceptable behavior for anyone—especially someone who wants to lead others down a better path than violence and crime.

Boyle knows two former gang members named Chepe and Richie who need to get out of town. Boyle decides to drive them up for his next lecture tour in Ridgecrest and Bakersfield, California. One night, they stop at a restaurant where there are many rich white people eating dinner. The men feel intimidated by the fancy food and atmosphere, but then they’re impressed with how respectful and considerate their waitress is when she serves their table: she treats them like human beings instead of intimidating gangsters or criminals.

One Sunday, Boyle gives a Mass in prison. At the Mass, people of different races and cultures sit together and forget about their differences. Then, a prisoner sings a solo. The singing is really bad, but everyone laughs at it anyway because they’ve forgotten about cultural boundaries.

In 1993, Boyle goes to Islas Maria (sometimes called the Mexican Alcatraz) and spends three months there. He gives Mass and puts on an elaborate Passion Play. One day, a prisoner named Beto asks him to meet in the garden. There, Beto pulls carrots and eggplants from the garden. Boyle is frightened—if Beto is caught stealing food, he’ll be horribly punished. But then, Beto takes the vegetables and leads him to a new spot where there’s a pot waiting for them. They light a fire under it and cook some delicious Mexican food together using those ingredients as well as other prisoners’ contributions of spices to flavor their stew.

Boyle hires two former members of rival gangs to sell Homeboy Industries merchandise in Oakland. Danny and Artie don’t speak to each other, but one day they both notice an old couple walking by. The men point out that the couple is under the influence of Viagra, which makes them laugh hysterically and become friends with each other.

Clever, a former gang member, decides to work for the Homeboy Silkscreen company. However, he runs into an old rival named Travieso and they fight each other. Travieso is badly hurt in the fight and put on life support. Clever feels bad about what happened to his rival and even offers to donate some of his own blood. He says “He was not my enemy; he was my friend.” This shows that people can change their lives by being kinder to others.

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Chapter 7

Boyle teaches that life is worth living if it’s pleasurable. He remembers speaking on a Spanish talk radio show, where he was asked about gang violence. One caller was Fili (one of his employees), who called in to tell Boyle that he would be out sick from work that day. After the call, Boyle took a moment to think about how he wouldn’t trade his life for anyone else’s.

Boyle explains Spider, a nineteen-year old ex-gang member who works for Homeboy Industries. Spider takes care of his family and makes sure they have enough food to eat. This reminds Boyle of God’s “unalloyed joy” in tending to mankind.

Boyle remembers his father, who died a month after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Boyle watched him suffer greatly in the hospital. He realized that life is all about breathing in good things and breathing out love for other people.

Boyle recalls an elderly woman named Lupe, who speaks up at a church meeting. She has read about the image of the Virgin Mary appearing on the back of a tortilla and thinks that God is sending an important sign to mortals. But another congregant says that God doesn’t work like that. He wants us to live “within the withinness of God.” That means we should delight in nature’s beauty and elegance instead of simply waiting for signs from Heaven.

Boyle knows an employee of Homeboy Industries named Moreno. Boyle has known him since he was a child, and now as a teenager. When Moreno was young, he got into trouble with the law and went to jail for some time. Later on in life, Boyle began spending lots of time with him, and learned that Moreno loved learning about biology. Today, Moreno works at the reception center of Homeboy Industries.

Most people in the Christian community believe that loving God is difficult. However, there are some who use it as an excuse for not being able to love Him wholeheartedly. They say that they simply don’t have the strength to do so. The author mentions a funny incident where one of his students accidentally said “The Lord is nothing I shall want.” Humor aside, many Christians believe this and think that God is too intimidating to be loved by them. But Christianity allows humble people to become great with God’s love.

Boyle notices two teenagers working in his program, Mario and Frankie. He sees Frankie lean into Mario’s chest and smell him. Frankie is embarrassed, but tries to explain that he smells good. Boyle nods – “Delighting,” he thinks, “is what occupies God.”

Boyle returns from a lecture tour and meets with Marcos, who has just had a baby. Boyle is impressed with the sheer joy on Marcos’s face. This joy, he concludes, is what Christianity is all about—taking pleasure in the delights of life. He also remembers meeting a group of former gang members and seeing an owl that none of them have ever seen before. They are transfixed by it “breathing it all in.”

Boyle goes to a church with two employees of Homeboy Industries. They read the script for Mass and Boyle is amazed by their knowledge of scripture and how it can change people’s views on religion. He thinks about how Vatican II changed the words in Catholic ceremonies, which influenced Catholics all over the world.

One Saturday morning, gang members open fire on their rivals. In the gunfire, two brothers are killed. Shortly after the funeral, a man named Boyle hires them to work with him. He invites them to one of his lectures in San Francisco. On the plane ride there, they worry about having to jump out of an airplane by parachute at some point during the flight. But eventually they relax and enjoy themselves on the plane ride home. By the end of it all, one brother tells another that he loves working with him so much that he can’t imagine doing anything else ever again.

Chapter 8

People love success stories. However, they should think about what it means to be successful and how that differs from failure. As Mother Teresa said, “We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.”

After Scrappy began working at Homeboy Industries, he was shot multiple times. “Something caught up with him,” Boyle says. After his death, another graffiti worker was killed and a friend told Boyle that he wished there was a way to ease the pain of losing someone close to you.

Boyle argues that many people think they have a duty to help the poor. However, he thinks that we should share our lives with the poor and not try to improve them in any way. Boyle refers to Jesus’ behavior around the poor, who spent all his time with them but didn’t offer a plan for improving their situation.

Boyle is driving out of his church one afternoon when he sees La Shady, a nineteen-year-old with her baby daughter. She asks him where he’s going and Boyle says that he’s been invited to a peace treaty meeting between two gangs, including the one that murdered her partner. However, she doesn’t know this because women are less than ten percent of gang members but more involved in their lives since they’re dating or married to them.

La Shady wants Boyle to help her interpret a dream she had. In the dream, she walked into Boyle’s church and saw him standing by a baby’s coffin. She felt scared at first but then found the courage to peer inside. Before she could do that, however, a white dove flew out of it. La Shady is puzzled about what this means; therefore, he asks for Boyle’s advice on interpreting the dream. He tells her that it means she should “give peace a chance” and embrace the Christian doctrine of forgiveness because there is nothing worth being afraid of in life if you’re forgiven by God for your sins (and everyone has sinned). He asks her how did the dream make her feel? She replies that when she saw the dove in front of her eyes, all negative thoughts disappeared from her head and were replaced with positive emotions such as happiness and calmness.

Boyle comes back to his earlier point, that God doesn’t want people to worry about their success unless it’s because they’re faithful. Homeboy Industries tries to help its employees find kinship and love with each other, rather than just making them financially independent. Jesus understood the importance of love over success. In fact, desire for success can be a barrier to finding kinship among others.

One day, Boyle sees a man named Manny who used to live in the projects. He doesn’t like that people are coming back because they’re taking up space and resources. Manny explains that he’s here to buy some beer with his food stamps. Manny was one of the twenty workers who built the original Homeboy child care center. A few hours later after seeing him, Manny is shot and killed by another gang member while buying beer at a liquor store. Boyle joins those mourning for him at a vigil, and comforts his family members who were saddened by his sudden death. Two months before this incident happened, he spoke to Manny about how he wanted to be a good father but didn’t know how; now it seems like he never got around to doing it since he was just murdered so quickly after their last conversation about being a father figure for his own kids someday soon.

Manny’s family agrees to donate his organs after hearing from Mr. Boyle and the nurse in charge of organ donation. However, one of the nurses mutters that she does not want to deal with Manny because he is a monster. The other nurse turns around and says that Manny was only nineteen years old when he died, so he belonged to somebody else who would want his heart back.

Boyle remembers a former gang member named Ronnie who got his diploma and joined the marines to fight in Afghanistan, but was shot six times. He survived, but another one of Soledad’s children was killed shortly after that. Boyle reunites with Soledad two years later, and she says “I love my children and I hurt for the ones that are gone.”

Soledad goes to the hospital and sees a kid from the gang that probably murdered two of her children. The kid is shot, clearly in pain, but he ends up surviving. You can’t bring back those who have died, Boyle concludes; you can only stretch out your arm across a gurney and forgive and heal.

Chapter 9

Mother Teresa once said that people have forgotten that we belong to each other. The opposite of this process is recognizing our common humanity and loving one another. Boyle has given away thousands of his personal cards to gang members about to go to jail, telling them he’ll remove their tattoos and give them a job when they get out.

The speaker recalls a teenager named Louie who had just gotten out of jail. The speaker smiles and says, “Louie, I have a feeling you were at the tattoo parlor first.” They both laugh and bond over their shared sense of humor.

A couple years ago, Boyle was diagnosed with leukemia. He’s survived cancer-free so far. A gang member called him from jail and said that he shouldn’t trust the doctors who’ve diagnosed him. Boyle likes to think of those calls as “second opinions.”

Boyle meets with Lencho again, who is now a grown man. Boyle offers him a job and tells him that he loves him. He also wants to show Lencho that he’s not an outcast and can be loved by others.

Boyle remembers a young man who worked for Homeboy Industries. He learned that the boy’s family members were all successful, but he felt like he was nobody. Later on, Boyle found out that the boy had an enlarged picture of himself from when he was ten years old. The photo gave him a sense of self-worth and made him feel important.

Boyle was raised in a big family and remembers listening to an old phonograph that played a song with lyrics about how the world needed Christ. Boyle often thinks about this song, and how it suggests that people need each other.

Fifteen years ago, a man named Bandit comes to see Boyle. Bandit is well known for his thievery in the gang world but he’s tired of that life and wants to change. He’s offered a job at Homeboy Industries by Boyle who tells him it’ll be hard work, but worth it if he sticks with it. Fifteen years later, Bandit has changed his ways and become an upstanding member of society with a wife and three children. He thanks Boyle for helping him turn things around and asks him to bless his daughter as she prepares to go off to college.

In 2005, the White House honored Homeboy Industries for its contributions to gang intervention. First Lady Laura Bush visited the facilities, and everyone was respectful and a little awed by her presence. Boyle was invited to speak at a conference at Howard University in Washington, D.C., but he brought three of his employees with him: Alex, Charlie, and Felipe. The three men were typical of the people that Boyle tries to help through Homeboy Industries because they had been gang members before finding their way into his program.

Before the trip, Boyle takes Alex, Charlie and Felipe to get suits for their visit to D.C. However, Alex admits that he hasn’t gotten permission from his parole officer to go to Washington, D.C. Boyle calls the parole officer and begs for Alex to be allowed leave Los Angeles under “high control” conditions (which means he must always be accompanied by a chaperone). The parole officer insists that Alex can only leave Los Angeles under these conditions. Within a week of this conversation with Boyle, Laura Bush decides that she will personally call the parole officer on behalf of Alex so that he can travel without restriction—and she does just that!

After the White House dinner, Boyle and his friends fly back to Los Angeles. Alex tells a flight attendant that he made history because he was invited to the White House. He adds that the food tasted bad. The flight attendant begins crying—a clear expression of her solidarity with him, according to Boyle.

In 1996, a gang member named Chico calls Boyle and asks for a job. He informs Boyle that he wants to learn about computers. He allows him to take classes and also work at the Homeboy Industries center. However, if Chico starts associating with his old friends in the gang again, “I will fire your ass”; however, after two days of not hearing from Chico, he receives a fax saying that he really loves working there.

A week later, Boyle learns that Chico has been shot and is paralyzed. He goes to the hospital and visits him. The next day, his heart stops beating and he dies. At his funeral, Boyle cries because eight people have died in three weeks.

In his presentation, the speaker said that it’s hard for some people to understand what kinship is. The speaker also said we should listen to people who are different from us and respect them. We can do this by teaching ourselves how to listen to voices from the margins. This vision may take time, but we can surely wait for it.

Tattoos On The Heart Book Summary, by Gregory Boyle
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