This is a compelling story you won't soon forget. Andy Lopez grew up in New York City as a first generation American from a tight-knit Dominican Republic family. He adores his mother, who single-handedly raised him and his 5 brothers. Gang life was the only life. He lived by the street code. Andy paints a vivid picture that gives us deeper insight into what attracts kids on the street to this lifestyle. Andy served two stints in prison, the first for 4 years, the second for 12. Ultimately, Andy chose to "drop the flag" of gang life during his second prison term and refocused all that energy into achieving his Associate's Degree through NYU's Prison Education Program. He currently resides in California with his brother and is working on finishing his Bachelor's Degree in Restorative Justice. I have no doubt that Andy's incredible light will touch many people in this world as he shares his gift of compassion with everyone he encounters.
Andy's generous, gentle soul had quite the impact on me. Despite his life experiences he is still an ardent believer that people are born good and he chooses to see the good in people, try to find common ground, and bring people together. This is a transformed man from the one who thought fighting was the answer to everything.
I loved the surprise bunny trail we went down about dog training and learning how to read people. I'm so thankful there are organizations who reach out to prisoners and give them chances to learn more about themselves, the world around them, and how to improve their lives. If this season is teaching us nothing else, it certainly is showing us that prison education programs have the capacity to be transformational and inmates are not lost causes. Just because you make a really stupid choice does not exclude you from growing and learning from it and improving your emotional, mental, or spirtual health.
This is not the last you've seen or heard of Andy. He has so much to share with the world. Be sure to check out the links in the show notes to the articles he wrote. His story and the way he narrates it is so compelling. I sat riveted as I was listening to him speak. No wonder people are drawn to him. Andy, I can tell you've taken to heart and live what Tupac said: "My aim is to spread more smiles than tears." May we all try to be the gift of happiness in someone else's life today, just as Andy has.
Quote: THUG LIFE - The hate that you give little infants f***s everybody - Tupac Shakur
BULLETT - Born to unite loyalty and love in every thug's life