Tattoos On The Heart

Greg Boyle, a Jesuit Priest in LA, wrote a compelling book about kids in gangs that he worked with for two decades. Los Angeles County has 1,100 gangs with approximately 86,000 members. What moves me about the book is his assertion that all life is sacred. If you want to teach your kids about compassion have them read his book, Tattoos on the Heart. The name came from a street kid who had never heard anything positive from anyone about him. Greg told him how heroic he was and that he was a giant among men. The kid then said to him, “Damn, G….I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”

Greg formed a company called Homeboy Industries to help these kids get jobs and become more confident in their abilities and place in life. The stories in the book help all of us understand how we can help our kids, and maybe even ourselves, to see our value. One kid, David, who had sunk to homelessness and a heroin addiction was beating himself up one day and was scolded by Greg, “You have to crawl before you can walk, and then walk before you can run.” David’s eyes softened with tears. “Yeah, but I know I can fly. I just need to catch a gust o’ wind.” For those kids on the street, Homeboy Industries was that gust of wind.


“It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart.”

Denise Levertov


What can we do for our kids that leaves a Legacy of hope and compassion? I believe it is twofold:


  1. When we guide our children we need the softness of heart and the joyful exuberant voice that celebrates the strength, compassion, and humanity in them.  Even though they are inundated with the world’s distractions from the true message.
  1. We need a kinship with those that we would not normally encounter in life that demonstrates the deep love that Jesus has for all…even those that do not demonstrate that same love back to us or others.


Another story that demonstrates this love is a tough, no-nonsense kid, Luis.  In his mid-twenties, he was arguably one of the biggest, savviest drug dealers in the LA community. Luis was very smart and quick witted. He never got caught because he was too smart.

Things changed for him when his daughter, Tiffany, was born. After her birth, he wanted to work at the Homeboy Bakery. Eventually, with his natural leadership abilities, he moved to the foreman of the bakery. Not only did he work with rival gang members, he also supervised them.

Luis never had a home in his life—now he had one. He was the biggest drug dealer in town, yet he stopped and baked bread instead. He never had a father in his life—and now he was one!

Tragedy struck for this kid who found a place in life.

Greg explains:
He wasn’t doing anything wrong on the Wednesday afternoon he was killed. He was loading the trunk of his car, in the projects, readying himself for a camping trip with friends. Two gang members, with faces covered, entered their “enemy’s” territory, looking “for fools slippin’.” They saw Luis…walked up to him and executed him.

“What’s the point,” his friends and homies asked, “of doing good…If this can happen to ya?”

Luis knew the truth about himself and for once in his life, he liked what he saw while working at the bakery and taking care of a child. Luis embraced his goodness—his greatness—and nothing was the same.

He found love because he learned how to give it.


With That Moon Language

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,

   “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud;


Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,

This great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying

With that sweet moon


What every other eye in this world

    Is dying to




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joe-sturnioloBy Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring about significant impact for His Kingdom.

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