Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tattoos on the Heart

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless CompassionYesterday I experienced something that I haven't since high school; I was made to feel like I didn't matter by another woman. In high school, that was a daily experience, and it's one of the reasons that I don't have a lot of fond memories of high school. Yesterday was different. I had to work with a few other moms from the elementary school, and one of them decided that for some reason, I wasn't worthy of her attention or time, so she excluded me from conversations and occasionally condescended to me. I don't know just why she made that determination; maybe because I don't attend her church or have the right last name or know the right people. Whatever it was, it was enough to spoil my day. I drove home trying very hard to remember that I have an identity in God that is undeniable, and nothing that woman can do or say could ever change that, but it's hard to just shake it off.

It reminded me of a verse I read this last week: They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. Mark 6:4 The verse refers to when Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth to preach to the crowds. At first the people were amazed by his teaching, but then they remembered that he was the son of Joseph, the carpenter, and how they had watched him grow up. Because of this knowledge, they disregarded his message and couldn't see him as any more than a neighborhood boy. They missed out on their chance to hear words of salvation from the Savior himself, because they couldn't get past his origins.

How many times do we completely disregard a person because of where they were born/who their parents are/what they do for a living/what their last name is/etc? We dismiss any value they have and miss any message we may need to hear. When I was younger, I faced this a lot as a teenage mom. People would look at Doogie, then me, do the mental math, and come to the conclusion that I was less of a person. I think we need to look past a person's past to see who they really are: a child of God. Every single person you meet is a child of God and His beloved. That's the message from today's book review.

Tattoos of the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle is the kind of book I want to press into the hands of everyone I know to make them read it and love it as I do. Boyle is the creator of Homeboy Industries which employs gang members in Los Angeles. Originally a bakery, it has grown to a silk screening business, graffiti removal business, plus more. They provide counseling, tattoo removal, and a wide range of other services for the entire community. Boyle fills the book with an assortment of anecdotes from the hilarious to the outrageous to the tragic. While reading, I kept sharing different stories aloud with my husband, because they are so stunning, I just had to share them. The message that Boyle wants his readers to get is that every single one of these gangbangers, no matter how hardcore, are in need of love, and to know that they have personal worth and value. He has faced a lot of prejudice in his dealings with them, and to the average reader, some of these people are truly frightening, but Boyle makes them always human and fragile. He speaks their language and gives them the opportunity to get a job, and to shatter the limitations imposed upon them by a variety of societal conditions. Boyle doesn't just share the "success" stories, but he wants to change the reader's definition of success. It can't be measured by a number of jobs or education, but by the number of hearts changed permanently by an organization who pours out the unconditional love of God. I dare you to read this book and not be moved by the stories within. Try not to cry as a mother loses yet another son to senseless violence.  Don't smile when reading as a former gangbanger shares how he reads stories with his children each night before bed. These stories will tattoo themselves onto your heart.

Thank you to Free Press Publicity for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

The winner of a copy of The Sword by Bryan M. Litfin was Rhoda Reinhold. Congrats to Rhoda!