Summer Reading: “Tattoos on the Heart”
Over the summer, Sister Mary Therese Perez‘s freshmen religion students read “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Father Greg Boyle, the founder of the gang intervention program Homeboy Industries. In class, students watched G-Dog, a documentary about Father Greg and his work, and participated in engaging discussions. Sr. Mary Therese then asked her students to write short essays reflecting on what they learned and how this can help shape their journey as new students at FSHA. This is the first of two posts sharing some of the reflections from Sr. Mary Therese’s students.
If you are unfamiliar with Father Greg Boyle or Homeboy Industries, check out his TED Talk on compassion and kinship.
By Tara Pugliese
Even before the first day of school at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy we were offered a taste of the school’s values. Over the summer, we were assigned to read “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Father Greg Boyle. The nonfiction bestseller is comprised of a collection of tales from Father Boyle’s time working with Los Angeles gang members. Every story is touching, inspiring, enthralling and eye-opening. “Father G,” as he is affectionately known, recounts each memory with meaningful details that make it clear just how significant each one is to the adroit priest and author.
Learning about gang lifestyle and the struggles the homeboys/girls face every day exposed me to a lifestyle completely different than my own. Reading Father G’s book humbled me immensely and eliminated my prior ignorance to a community not far from where I live. With the conclusion of summer break, we began the school year by discussing “Tattoos on the Heart” and what each of our reading experiences was like. I greatly enjoyed listening to my classmates’ comments and feelings; the process further augmented my appreciation for Father G’s work and every gang member he helps.
Continuing our research of Homeboy Industries, the philanthropic businesses used to introduce ex-gang members into the workforce, we followed up our discussion with a class viewing of “G-Dog.” Named after another nickname given to Father Boyle by the homeboys and homegirls, the documentary focuses on his history working in Los Angeles and the establishment of Homeboy Industries. The documentary provided a different perspective on what we learned from reading “Tattoos on the Heart;” it explored the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running Homeboy Industries and the financial struggles they have been impeded with recently. I now have a more comprehensive knowledge of Father G’s work.
Who knew reading “Tattoos on the Heart” would leave such a print on mine?
To apply our experience to our own lives, we transitioned into the next aspect of our journey: rediscovering and identifying the “tattoos” on our hearts. We began by brainstorming our most potent memories and experiences; subsequently, we translated our findings into a presentation that highlighted our favorite one. I savored this musing the most. It allowed me to truly evaluate what in my life has defined me the most and what will leave an indelible mark on me for the rest of my life—a subject one rarely takes the time to ponder. My exploration affected me much more than I had expected. I know that I am now more humble, grateful, informed and appreciative because of this experience. Who knew reading “Tattoos on the Heart” would leave such a print on mine?
By Grace Tighe
In these first few weeks at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy I have had to relate almost everything to our life at FSHA, whether it be a quote, or a story, or someone’s actions. The reason our teachers are doing this is because the four years at FSHA are going to shape our lives. These are very important years. They are truly going to be a journey; there will be ups and downs. However, after reflecting on what Fr. Gregory Boyle said, I believe my FSHA journey will be a much more positive one.
Throughout reading “Tattoos on the Heart,” watching “G-Dog,” and reflecting on both, the main thing I have learned is how important parents are. Although I don’t always agree with my parents, I love them, and without them leading me through life, I would be a very different person. Through reading “Tattoos on the Heart” and watching “G-Dog” I found that the homies did not have great relationships with their parents. Their parents were often alcoholics or abusive. The homies just wanted to get away from this abuse, and they ended up going into gangs. Some of the homies in “G-Dog” said their moms would flush their heads down the toilet, or their dads would put cigarettes out on them. Many of these kids were brought up in horrible situations and they sought someone who could care for them. They thought running to gangs was the only thing they could do. If they had been brought up to do good, and feel important in this world, these kids wouldn’t run to gangs anymore.
Whether you have both parents, only your mom or only your dad, or just someone positive to look up to, you will be able to have a good life, because you will know someone cares for you.
Now I know no one is going to join a gang here at FSHA just because they don’t listen to their parents or their parents get mad at them every once in awhile. However, what we should take away from this is that here our parents want the best for us. Whether you have both parents, only your mom or only your dad, or just someone positive to look up to, you will be able to have a good life, because you will know someone cares for you. We, as FSHA students, need to listen to our parents and our family here at FSHA because they will do their best to help us. We need to trust them, and once we do, we will have a successful and positive journey at FSHA.
By Lauren Anastasia
People are not what they appear to be. You cannot read an entire book with one glance. In the book, “Tattoos on the Heart,” and the movie, “G-dog,” Fr. Boyle does not look at a gang member and see them as criminal or dangerous person, he sees them as a person in need of help. He looks beyond the cover to see who people really are on the inside, not what they appear to be on the outside. There is so much more to a person than meets the eye.
Now that I am starting a new school, this is the perfect time to practice what I have learned from Fr. Boyle and try to see who people are on the inside, not just what they appear to be on the outside.
Fr. Boyle tells us in the book “Tattoos on the Heart” that your love and compassion should not have limits. God never turns anyone away from his love so why should you? You should never build a wall between you and another person.
I will now strive to show compassion towards everyone and stand with the people who need help.
Being at a new school can be intimidating. Many people, including myself, can be shy when meeting new people. In these situations, Fr. Boyle has taught me never to build walls but to branch out to people and allow other people to come to you as well.
Overall, I feel that I gotten a lot out of reading “Tattoos on the Heart” and watching “G-Dog.” Fr. Boyle has shown me how to not judge a book by its cover, I should never put limits on my love, and how important compassion is. I will now strive to show compassion towards everyone and stand with the people who need help. I look forward to my years at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and welcoming new people into my love.