Getting real, risking vulnerability, connecting: a story from Behind Bars

Truth Be Told co-founder and executive director Carol Waid shares this story from behind bars.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote could not be truer for me.  In the 12-plus years that I have been blessed to facilitate classes at the Lockhart GEO Unit, the TCCC Del Valle Jail, and at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville, TX, I have gone through many levels of healing my many selves, and I have been stretched to grow into more and more courage. The women housed in these facilities are many times my teachers and my motivators to show up in the world as they show up in their daily lives.

This story is about a woman who guided me to another level of choosing the courage of vulnerability.

Brene’ Brown says:

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

The work that Truth Be Told does is certainly about experiencing connection and reaching beyond our comfort zones to form a safe community and to express and get to know who we really are by sharing the truth about our life’s journeys.

At the GEO Lockhart facility, I co-facilitate a class called Let’s Get Real, a class designed for women who have a release date of 9 months or less. Rocke attended the class with 22 other women on that first day in March. As she was leaving that day, she shared with co-facilitator Julie that she didn’t read or write and wanted to know if she could still attend. Julie let her know that of course she could.

The next week Rocke let us know that someone was helping her with her reading, so on week 5, as Rocke was leaving class, I asked her if she would take the next nine weeks to think about something she would read to the class. I told her it could be anything that she had practiced on.

I knew it was a risk to ask her, but I felt the pull to ask her to stretch her comfort zone.

Week 6 — no Rocke. I felt sad, of course, and for week after week I made a mental note to write Rocke to thank her for her participation in those first five weeks and for her courage to show up. At the beginning of Week 12, I finally sent Rocke a note.

With only two classes of the semester left, Rocke showed up at the door of Room #2, and I will forever remember what happened, because it truly has been a life-changing event for me.

I was genuinely happy when I saw her, and my smile and my words expressed it well. I had no idea that Rocke was actually going to come to ask to come back. I felt that we couldn’t let her rejoin the class because she had missed too many classes, and she wouldn’t be ready to graduate. At some point we must decide for the community and say, “We are sorry, but you have missed seven classes, and this community has done a lot of work to build trust together.”

As I stood there with Julie’s words sinking in, “Rocke wants to come back,” my brain was working overtime and my heart was in the way of my thinking this through.  It was only a minute but felt so much longer.

Before I could answer, Rocke said, “I have something for y’all.”  What Rocke had was a note, and she said, “This is for Ms. Carol, and I wrote it myself.”

As she pulled the paper out from between the empty pages of her composition book, I saw my name and saw the tears falling down Rocke’s cheeks, and I saw them forming in Julie’s eyes, and of course they were already dripping out of mine.

This moment of Rocke’s authenticity and her willingness to be vulnerable has shown me a tangible moment of what Brene’ Brown speaks about.

As Rocke entered the classroom with a beautiful smile, I wondered, “How am I going to explain to the community about Rocke being back?” I didn’t need to finish that worry, because one participant said, “Rocke, welcome back. I am so happy to see you.”

Another said, “I am so proud of you.”

Our community slam-dunked itself into another level in that moment, and all because Rocke decided to be vulnerable and take a chance.

Weeks passed, and I took Rocke with me everywhere in my heart. I stood up taller and more courageously because I would think of her being so vulnerable at that door, waiting for Julie and me to take her in or tell her it wouldn’t work for her to rejoin us. She had also taken the risk to begin reading and writing more.

I wrote to Rocke again and told her that I wanted use her writing in our blog, but I wanted a little bio from her. Rocke’s response came to me in one week, and I wept when I read about why she had quit school in the third grade.

Please join me in reading more about Rocke, in her own words:

To Truth Be Told,

I want to thank you for your class Let’s Get Real. I learn a lot. It’s never too late to learn. I hope this class goes forever. You all help me. Gave me courage and strength and I begin to challenge myself to read and spell. Now I can do it.

I want to thank you for giving me the courage and the knowledge to know that I am somebody and that I’m loved by my children and God. I was always told I would be nobody. How I was stupid and dumb. I want to show my children they are important and they are loved and our love is real. Because my childhood was very corrupt and dysfunctional and I was shown false affection, from my father. In which changed my life and made me leave my goals and schooling in which ended at the 3rd grade, due to child abuse. Now I have a 37-year-old child with Downs Syndrome, from a man, my father who I thought that was ok and a families love. So now I know this was rape.

Now in time that learn to speak about my corrupt past my wounds heal each and every time I express myself on my tragic past. I want to thank you Truth Be Told for helping me to open my heart and be able to speak of my past. I’m healing and am grateful for your motivation and inspirations. Now I am able to forgive my parents, who are now passed away.

By the grace of God to answer a few questions you asked. I have 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys. When I go home I want to take my 37-year-old son out of state school in Corpus Christi, TX. He was one of the victims in which he suffered abuse and molestation from the staff at his facility, it was on TV nationwide. My goal is to get him home with family that love him and can take care of him. I’m excited to go home and rekindle my relationship with my children and grandkids. I want to read a book to my grandkids that was never read to me, “The 3 Little Bears.” I’m nervous that my family will not accept me for the changed woman that I am.

I am not going to give up on my goals and dreams. I will take it as far as I can, God willing. Thank you Truth Be Told I’m finally Free! Free!

Thank you! Not from the bottom of my heart, but from all my heart.


Still learning more and more.


  • To say that this story is not a moving one would be a lie….I started crying as I know Carol did…… it’s amazing what a small thought that 2 wonderful women with God’s love can do.


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Reimagining The Future

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