December 2016


“Never stop dreaming!”

Words I told to a disheartened student during the A.M. session of the Roots of Success class that I am an instructor for.

It is so easy to lose heart and therefore lose focus when it appears that the world and everyone in it is conspiring against you.

This student, like many others, has masked a lifetime of pain and insecurities with substance use and abuse. He has been so internally wounded that he has externally built walls to prevent others from getting too close.

One day I asked him, why this was?

And he assured me that “it is much easier to keep people out than to let them in.”

Most people will only notice his tattooed exterior and not his wounded heart.

Most people will see the scars and markings over his body as evidence of years of drug use. Unable to see that behind those scars and markings have been years of unanswered and even ignored cries for help.

Most people will only see him in lieu of his crime and what he has done. Not according to what could have been and for what he may one day be.

These prejudices perpetuated the building up of walls and therefore the giving up of his dream.

Walls do one of two things: 1) keep things in, or 2) keep things out.

And these walls often kill dreams before they are birthed.

Many of the students David Duhaime, Grady Mitchell, Carlos Bernardez and I teach have built prisons inside of their own prisons.

Walls that they are ashamed of, yet walls that offer a sense of security.

These erected walls are masterfully manufactured as the work of a brilliant craftsman to keep people from getting too close out of fear that they may be seen for who they really are and not for who they pretend to be.

Brick by brick their walls begin to take shape.

Bricks of prejudice and bigotry. Bricks of lies and distrust. Bricks of insecurity and addiction. Bricks of hopelessness and fear. Bricks of depression and doubt.

It is time to knock down the walls, brick by brick, that obstruct the view of our greatest dreams.

Dreams deferred very well may take on the immediate appearance of a curse. Yet, divinely, in some miraculous sequence of events they may very well turn into one of life’s greatest blessings.

I am reminded of how far my life has come, and how what appeared to be a mess has morphed into a message. How out of the darkness of hopelessness, my life has been a light to inspire hope.

Prior to my incarceration I had many dreams and aspirations.

However, what I never dreamed of was that through my dreams being deferred others around me will begin to dream.

That the men I work with daily will begin to envision that which they lost sight of. The visions that were once blurred or obstructed due to circumstances, they have now reclaimed and have in their sights.

In helping others dream I have inadvertently actualized dreams of my own.

To inspire a dream one must first be a dreamer. And in dreaming one must fight to keep their dreams alive.

How is this done?

In the face of adversity and uncertainty one must persevere. To persevere one must persist and to persist one must endure or continue despite the opposition.

I persevered by faith, hope, and love. I knew that I was much more than my worst mistakes. And, I knew there were countless people looking up to me as an inspiration and a barrier break.

You see the first one to knock down the wall feels the pressure of resistance the most. However they also pave the way for others to follow.

So the reward has to be greater than the pain or the pressure of opposition. My will to achieve and succeed had to be greater than my reason to quit, give up or give in.

Trailblazers are often the first to be burned by the fires of adversity that come with being a pioneer.

And all of us that are apart of the Roots of Success family are pioneers. Blazing trails, breaking barriers, knocking down walls, reviving dreams.

Roots of Success is helping to resuscitate and breathe life back into dreams before they flat line. And for those dreams pronounced dead on arrival, we keep fighting for and believing in those dead dreams until there is a pulse.

It is serious work to reach those who have been discarded and underappreciated for the greater majority of their lives. A work that me and my colleagues take extremely serious. But when the hard times come we never lose sight of the why in our how.

In the words of Nietzsche “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how…”

Our dream is to make a difference and leave a legacy greater than our past. So when the trailblazing fire comes it may burn but you have to go through the fire and sometimes be burned to be refined.

Each day I look forward to going to work because I know that I am making a difference. In the life of my students, the facility, and the community.

We are making a difference.

As we enter into week 5 of our 15th and 16th roots of success classes here at Stafford Creek, I am seeing the walls coming down, the demeanors beginning to soften, the veils being lifted, hope being instilled, and an awakening taking place.

As I tell my amazing students…

Never stop dreaming and never give up hope. Let your dreams be the fuel that inspires you and let hope be the anchor that secures you.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, I leave you with this thought, “The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.”


Cyril D. Walrond