Okay, so the small warning on language in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle may needed to have been a little larger. Still, knowing that’s what language is probably like in the gang world, it helped me understand his world. I bet language is more a part of some of your worlds than we might think–or even than you might have thought before you arrived. If you’ve been in your context for a while, how have you seen this part of language change since you first arrived?
This brought back several (kind of) funny memories. Part of my responsibilities involved visiting teachers who were teaching ESL classes. One of the teachers I consistently observed would have her classes start off with a group of four or so students doing a skit. And without fail–with.out.fail–on the days I’d be there the skits involved language that was, shall we say, colorful. The first time she was horrified to have an observer experience her handling of a, to her, embarrassing situation. I get it~ but she handled it well! The next semester when in a different class it happened again, she turned and looked back at me with the “You Have Got To Be Kidding Me” look. Maybe I’m the common denominator :). Yikes!
Anyway, this is a part of ministry life, isn’t it? Unredeemed (and redeemed) folks might not use the vocabulary we would choose for them.
Other than that, did you find yourself marking almost every page? Again and again I found myself underlining, starring, and putting dots. Which is great, but it does make it tricky to know where to start having a conversation. I loved knowing where the title came from. “Sharkey seems thrown off balance by [all the affirmations] and silently stares at me. Then he says, ‘Damn, G . . . I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.'”
Or the start of Homeboy Industries? Repeatedly, I found myself appreciating that Father G shared what worked and what didn’t. What they tried and how it fared. The weakness of sharing news via newsletters is that there often isn’t space for the process (and in fairness, a newsletter is a different form of communication than a book).
“So I hired [Ramiro] at the bakery, and little by little we erased his forehead. And we have since added laser machines and doctors who perform more than four thousand treatments a year. We owe it all to Ramiro (who moved on to a job as a security guard at a movie studio–no trace left of the angriest moment of his life). Businesses have come and gone at Homeboy Industries. We have had starts and stops, but anything worth doing is worth failing at. We started Homeboy Plumbing. That didn’t go so well. Who knew? People didn’t want gang members in their homes. I just didn’t see that coming.”
I cracked up!
“But anything worth doing is worth failing at.” Does this encourage you? It does me–not everything we’re going to try is going to succeed. We’ve had a few small fails recently at Velvet Ashes, if I’m honest. But this encourages me that failure is a part of being involved in ministry, relationships, life. Being willing to fail may be the entrance ticket to meaningful involvement.
And that poem at the end of the introduction. Wow. “Why not become the one.” Yes, why not? I love that I think this stirs you too.
Good grief, I’ve already used over 600 words and haven’t even gotten to chapter one or two?! What I’m drawn to in this book is the way he weaves reality (and desperation) with hope.
Where did you laugh out loud? (“Not only is he menacing, but he seems to have lost his volume knob.”) Do share in the comments.
Which stories stood out or touched you? (For me- the rose petals over Father G’s head. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? When we thought we blew it. Also “In this early morning call Cesar did not discover that he has a father. He discovered that he is a son worth having.” That. Just that. And one last one: “I don’t know how to wash my clothes except in the sink of a cell.” Wow. The privilege woven into my life in even simple areas like washing clothes.)
One final thought, the power and importance of knowing people’s names. In what ways have you seen in your context the power of knowing someone’s name?
I could go on, but will wait and join you in the comments.
Until then, Amy 🙂
P.S. Reading plan:
September 8: Chapter 3 and 4
September 15: Chapters 5-7
September 22: Chapters 8-9
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