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Tattoos on the Heart

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Rival gang members worked side by side in Greg’s first humanitarian business venture, Homeboy Bakery. How did this unusual arrangement—enemies working together— play out? Can you think of ways this approach might work in a different context of conflict?

Greg talks about offering opportunities, not to people who need help but to those who want it. What difference do you think this makes?

Elias Montes accepts an award on Greg’s behalf and says to the audience, “Because Father Greg and Homeboy Industries believed in me, I decided to believe in myself.“ Greg himself writes, “Sometimes resilience arrives in the moment you discover your own unshakeable goodness.” For all their bravado, a lot of the gang members are deeply vulnerable and insecure—how does Greg approach this contradiction?

Greg writes, “Kinship [is] not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others’; he was one with them.” How are the two different, and how does Greg integrate this distinction into his work?

How does life in a gang—which promises a sense of safety, belonging, and an income—compare to life at Homeboy Industries (HBI)?

Greg describes how reporters and other guests are often scared and wary when visiting his community. Now that you know the homies’ stories, would you feel comfortable working alongside them at Homeboy Bakery or ordering a cup of coffee at the Homegirl Cafe?

The book is organized around stories that read like parables of faith. What did these stories teach you about kinship, compassion, redemption, and mercy? How are some of these key lessons applicable to your own daily life?

How does Greg interpret the biblical parable about the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof of the packed house so that he can access Jesus (p. 75)? He agrees that the story is about the curative power of Jesus, but he also sees “something more significant happening. They’re ripping the roof off the place, and those outside are being let in.” What does Greg mean by that? How has reading this book informed your understanding of this parable?

Greg spends a lot of time talking to the homies about their different conceptions of God. Do you believe in God, and if so, how does your belief color the way that you view disparities in privilege and opportunity?

Greg often integrates poetry into his teachings. He quotes Rumi (p. 26): “Find the real world, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold to all who ask. Live at the empty heart of paradox. I’ll dance there with you—cheek to cheek.” How do you think Greg interprets these lines? How do you think that interpretation informs his approach to his work? How do you interpret these lines?

In the preface, Greg explains the title and his hope that readers will tattoo these stories onto their hearts. Which of these stories about Greg’s work stuck with you most?