Over the next few weeks, we are featuring Full Circle Stories: a blog series highlighting several bakers’ challenges and triumphs. These stories inspire and ultimately give meaning to what we do every day at Greyston Bakery: provide opportunities and see the good in each person who walks through the door. Paul has chosen to share his story in hopes that it can touch someone in the way Greyston Bakery has touched him.
Paul has worked for Greyston Bakery since March 2012. Before working at Greyston Bakery, he was incarcerated for 3 years in state prison and for 6 years in federal prison for selling drugs. At the age of 14, Paul began selling drugs as a way to escape poverty and soon discovered that this profession enabled him to earn huge sums of money in relatively short periods of time. He understands that he made poor choices but that he and his friends were not afforded the same educational opportunities as children in different neighborhoods.
While in federal prison, Paul realized he had hit rock bottom and decided that upon his release, he would make serious changes to his lifestyle. He was tired of engaging in illegal activity and fearing the police at every turn. Paul remembers a particular pivotal moment sitting on his bed in prison, looking at pictures of his two children their mother had sent him. He had always worried that if he weren’t selling drugs, he wouldn’t be able to provide his children with the clothes and belongings they deserved. But the mother of his two girls worked hard at a legal job, and his children looked beautiful, healthy and happy. Paul promised himself he would become a model for his girls, working a job he and his children could be proud of.
Greyston Bakery gave Paul an opportunity to work without checking his criminal record and he feels deeply grateful that the staff decided to trust him and enable his transformation. He believes in the philosophy of acceptance and non-judgement and is inspired by the incredible opportunities for growth within the bakery. Paul has worked in various departments at Greyston and strives to lead by example for bakers newer to the job. He has taught himself incredible discipline and practices positive self-talk daily, a ritual that helps him avoid trouble and gain confidence. Many of Paul’s friends are still involved in the drug business, but he continues to choose the path he feels proud of. When asked what advice he would give to someone in the same position he was in at age 14, Paul said he would tell the person to focus on getting an education, but he knows for many people this proves extremely difficult. “Honestly, I wish there were a Greyston in every city, because crime rate would go down if people were given an opportunity and respected.”
Paul proudly announced that one of his daughters has become a pediatrician and his other daughter is still in school. His ultimate goal is to get a degree in computer science and every day he works towards that goal. The best thing he has learned in the past 3 years is that “I am somebody and that I can make a difference. I’m so grateful that I finally know myself and that I am surrounded by people who encourage me to make the right choices.”