By Daniel Hamon
Tattoos on the Heart, a touching yet heart-warming book written by Gregory Boyle, recounts the many instances in which Father Boyle has served and made a difference for the gang-involved youth in Los Angeles county. Father Boyle is a 2011 recipient of the Opus Prize, which is "given annually to recognize unsung heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, solving today’s most persistent social problems...winners combine an entrepreneurial spirit with an abiding faith to combat seemingly intractable global issues like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and injustice. Opus Prize winners demonstrate that change is possible, empowering and inspiring all of us."
Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries in 1992 with the mission to assist at-risk and formerly gang involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education. In addition, Fr. Boyle provides support and encouragement for young people in need of opportunity and unconditional love. He writes:
Gangs are bastions of conditional love - one false move, and you find yourself outside. Slights are remembered, errors in judgment held against you forever. If a homie doesn't step up to the plate, perform the required duty, he can be relegated to "no good" status. This is a state from which it is hard to recover. Homeboy Industries seeks to be a community of unconditional love. Community will always trump gang any day. Derek Walcott writes, "Either I am a nobody or I am a nation." Our place at Homeboy is this touchstone of resilience. You discover your true self in this "nation." Homies who used to work at Homeboy always return on their days off or on their lunch break. A home said to me once, "I just came by to get my fix."
"Of what?" I ask him.
"Love," he says.
Everyone is just looking to be told that who he or she is is right and true and whole acceptable.
Please visit Homeboy Industries to learn more and to find out Fr. Boyle speaking schedule.