It Took Me Coming To Prison

I took a break to finally eat part of my lunch while the group was still going on inside.

It’s curious how long you can go during these visits without eating because you’re more or most hungry for the connection you’ve brought to share and partake in (the idea of this new type of hunger is etched in my cells since fasting solo in the wild for the four days I’ve shared about before and definitely, too, since the visit most recently with His Holiness).

The type of connection I experience here each time is of a brand that stops time. It’s the kind that has made me realize, again and again, what is needed to feel fulfilled in life, no matter what the circumstances and the longing we have of realizing the best of who we are emotionally, creatively and intellectually and being part of helping others realize the same (it’s amazing, but not surprising how my business and brand work with women, this work or even the hospice and refugee work I’ve done all points to the same thing ~ building and developing the self and being more fully seen).

We don’t all deserve to realize the best of who we are today, WE ARE MEANT TO, also and again, no matter the circumstances…

I took my second bite standing outside the hallway that leads onto the yard, looking at each detail more intently than I had at any other visit.

I took in the buildings ~ the dark grey/blue painted A2, A3, A4 numbers, how the gates and barbed wire roll and work, the hues of the guards’ uniforms, the way the bumpy asphalt felt under my feet, how the three, five, then nine, 10, 11, 12 and 13 CO’s stood (in this almost meditative moment, I counted each one), leaned onto the side of the building or drank their coffee and their varying expressions and body language…

This particular place ~ the yard ~ is the place where the guys play basketball, soccer, or volleyball or do burpees, squats or push-ups once a day (as a result of the Compassion Prison Project, the guys told us that basketball games now sometimes happen across race or color lines, the Hispanic guys now play with the African-American guys and vice-versa (this is very big)).

I had seen guys working out in all of the above ways throughout my visits to Kern. But today the yard was eerily quiet due to the lock-down (happens often and this day it was due to a staff shortage).

I was captivated (I’m choosing this word and no other word deliberately) by one sun-stained soccer ball cuddling up to an old net. I consciously allowed myself a long look at that ball, and, maybe not so surprisingly, felt Nolan (I’ve felt him with me most visits, or more specifically, I SEE Nolan in these men)…

In them, I see the young boys still inside…the boys whose houses were not homes — where love, respect and communication were not served at breakfast, lunch or dinner. I see the boys who needed and/or begged for time, to feel safe and supported and to be shown a different way to feel important, heard or powerful.

I also see in them the conscious, emotionally-available and mindful men they are and continue to become…

I see in them all of who they are and I honor the young, the wise, the strong and the vulnerable in them (I also honor the joyful —the life— in them, as these photos of them show).

I would be leaving something out if I didn’t say that it all means a lot, so much that it’s hard to express, to the heart inside this woman who is raising a young man.

It brings up questions, answers, more questions and rather simply, love (in all the ways this can be expressed with affection and guidelines/boundaries and loads of continued conversation) ~ wanting to bring even more of all of it into the life of my guy here at home and more, way more, into the lives of the men at Kern and other prisons.

I stared at the ball for a while longer and my eyes teared up, as they often do during our shares during circle.

Nolan continued to be there, and it reminded me of something I got clear on inside the grief journey after Dino and my Mom passed ~ what if we treated the next person we communed with as the very person we have lost?

In this case, what if in seeing the adult, we also always saw or honored the kid?❤️

Direct shares from two of our guys:
“It’s not about the physical food you bring us, it’s what you guys teach us, you guys are redefining us. You are taking off the protective armor, the pride, the fear and the anger…”

“It took me coming to prison to get to know my mom to be able to forgive her.”❤️

Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life!

Life is good,




Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur 

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