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Tattoo Heroes

Tattoo Heroes

“He said he’d beat the crap out of me if I didn’t.” After a celebratory dinner of fried chicken, beans, and tortillas the room fell silent as Maureen* told her story. 

She proudly showed the progress with glossy photos of sessions one, two, three, and four. She explained how Mario was removing her tattoo. Soon the mark made on her chest would no longer be a daily reminder of her abuser and her trauma. 

Mario, a short muscular man with a giant curly ponytail, spoke next. He choked up explaining how he used to tattoo gang members. How he heard Blanca talk about the possibility of getting his own tattoo removed through the program she started for people leaving jail or prison. Now he helps remove other people’s tattoos. 

Daniel, Blanca’s son, stood up. He’d been inspired by a book by Catholic priest Greg Boyle, homework at his Jesuit prep school. Father Boyle became an icon among gang members for his compassion toward them, and one of the first programs he developed was a tattoo-removal program to eliminate one barrier to them being employed. 

Next was Blanca’s turn. After experiencing Daniel’s after school enthusiasm for Father Boyle’s work in California, she immediately saw the need in Nebraska. She found funding, and she found Dr. Mike. 

Dr. Mike, who’d earlier blessed our chicken dinner, was next on the evening’s agenda. He’d learned from Blanca that the program required a doctor’s supervision. He couldn’t say no. 

Then there was Tony. He slowly removed his backward ball cap revealing the half-faded tattoo across his forehead. The painful removal process requires multiple sessions, and he was still in the process. He flashed a smile, holding on to the hand of his girlfriend sitting close. Like the others, his gratitude was profound and his hope undeniable. 

Everyone had gathered to celebrate the one- year anniversary of the tattoo removal program and the dozens who’d been helped. 

-Maureen is out of that relationship. She now volunteers three days a week at the center Blanca started. 

-Mario is proud to be a volunteer helping others in the situation he was once in. He recently was named employee of the month at the company where he works as a handyperson. 

-Tony says he’ll turn to Blanca for help in starting his own nonprofit. 

We each have a part to play in removing the vestiges of the past that no longer serve us or others. Our single part can make a difference. These heroes made a difference in mine. 

Coach Koenig 

Where do you look for inspiration? 

Do you gain enthusiasm from what you read? 

Who are your heroes for how you want to live your life? 

*Names have been changed to preserve the confidentiality of these heroes.