3 Important Lessons From An Ex Convict I Met In A Cafe

people remember us for how we treated them especially in their worse days…

6 min readMay 9, 2024
Photo by Abstral Official on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Names* changed to protect the identity of the person, in this story, my former supervisee whose incarceration case was under my care.

“The moment you pulled down your mask, I recognized you,” said the waitress.

Let’s name her Samantha*.

My eyes went wide. I could not recognize her. She spoke softly not to let others hear.

“Did you live in the prisons in the past? You were in the prisons or something…” asked Samantha*.

I smiled.

I knew she was an ex-convict, but I did not recall her case. Samantha* was surprised I had left the service a long time ago.

“I left our country, too. I was living in other countries. It had been more than a decade since I resigned…” I spoke.

She was more surprised.

I realized some lessons never meant to be known if I had not eaten there.

So now, let me share with you 3 lessons I learned from meeting Samantha* who was probably, God’s way of trying to cheer me up.

Let’s read.

Wisdom 1 — People remember us how we treated them especially in their worse or lowest days.

“When you pulled your mask, I remember you…” said Samantha*, the ex- convict.

For many years I had kicked the dust off my feet from being an officer, I was shocked. She remembered me. But I failed to ask her a question.

Had I treated her good while she was incarcerated? Or had I been the worst nightmare as an officer where many prisoners hated?

“I remember you as someone who walked very fast, ran up and down the levels very quickly to run the place smoothly…” she said.

I was slim, petite, and physically fit back then.

“I remember you…When you pulled down the mask, I remember you. You’re so fat already now…” she said.

I laughed. I nodded. The state I had been in, physically, seriously torn my health apart.

“For your info, I am also about a decade clean outside, Ma’am…” she said.

I could recall a little about her from the way she spoke. I was pretty sure she was from my favorite hall on duty.

What surprised me was she remembered me.

This would be something we need to know.

People remembered how you treated them in their lowest days especially — good or bad.

I had long erased the memories among ex-colleagues especially when I left. I did not want to see the prisons or have anything to do with officers.

When you wanted to change life differently, your social circle changed too.

It would be a pre-requisite. I never regret not keeping in touch with anyone of the officers.

Instead, a lot more thankful for letting go.

2 — Life felt hopeless as we hadn’t found a purpose for our existence

“.. My son is also in this program. Yellow Ribbon. But he relapsed. He went back in. I’m feel so down, you know…” said Samantha*

I understood well her grief.

I grieved too when I thought of how my age passed me and I couldn’t live my life. I wondered why God had chosen me to be a caregiver of one person after another.

Imagine life started at 60s only after everyone in the family died?

It had been a challenge for me to be convinced consistently as God had promised “…so are your days, so shall your strength be.”

Precisely that’s how I felt that accepting God’s Will would be a challenge, what was more about loving God’s Will?

It went against my expectations, or my plans.

And through life bumpy road, I felt hopeless. Sometimes, I felt helpless. I could work in many industries. However, I felt the limitations of my health, skills, and knowledge.

“…Samantha*, I think your son hasn’t found his purpose in life…When he finds it, he will know which direction he needs to go to…” I said.

She was surprised.

“…I think he was stress lah Ma’am…I think the stress causes him to do things that leads him back to the prisons…” she said, as though looking for validation.

“He hasn’t really known what he wants…And when he knows, he will understand where he can focus on…which direction he can seek help…” I spoke.

Apparently, life had always been about being resourceful.

From cases I handled, this would be my two cents worth of thoughts for parents. Give time and space for your children to work their life out even if you hadn’t been convinced or confident that their choices would be good for them.

3 — The worse persons with dark past and history were the people who appreciated you more than those who had clean records

This meant that they love you as you had been in the present. They knew what it was like to have nothing or been nothing.

They knew what it felt like to be an outcast, different among the majority, looked down by others, or even been bullied.

“.. I am thankful and glad I left the service. Because if I had stayed till retirement, I would miss out what life offers me more outside. Truly at 50s and 60s if an officer left the service, starting in the private sector would be an eye opener how much they had missed out on life…” I said.

She smiled.

“Yes, true to that too, Ma’am. You look way better now. Although you’re bigger in size… you’re more cheerful… More joyful…Only that you’re too fat already,” said Samantha*

Coming from a good heart, I didn’t take that as an offense. It was her concerns too for me. She, as a person who once lived behind the prisons’ wall, had seen me physically fit and healthy. Now, when I appeared obese, it became a concern for her too. Health matters.

“My dad is down with brain cancer. Before him was my aunt…I’m tired…being a caregiver. So tired that my health deteriorated…This physical state I am in? Late night sleep. Sometimes, I couldn’t sleep…” I shared.

I shared with Samantha where I had worked in the restaurants and cafes.

I shared how it was like to be the only person sweeping leaves and using heavy blower all around the French restaurant.

I shared how it was like thinking I had picked up cigarette buds of customers or guests, but it wasn’t. It was the full-time staff or the front of house who littered around.

Now that I left, I knew nobody was bossed around to clean up the abandoned chapel turned restaurant. Nobody was told to keep the storage container spick and span.

“… People look down on us based on our roles… if you’re not a manager or white collar, you’re bullied. People easily challenge you to be honest or speak up but in reality, in being honest, they argue to win. Because of their rank, their ego. But they zero on us saying it’s our ego…” I said.

“That’s tough huh… Imagine me been to prison before… Not many people think good of us. But you? You’re not incarcerated, Ma’am. You were there as a warden to protect and help us… People on the outside still exist to take advantage of your kindness…” she said.

We hugged as she needed to run over to other outlets.

She wasn’t the only ex-convict who chatted with me whenever I dropped by for a cup of coffee with a piece of cake.

There were a few who chatted with me in between the hours. And I would say I learned that setbacks, mistakes, failures and loss had been the beginning and a catalyst to mould us into being a compassionate person.

Have a heart.

My ending of this article would be a question for you.

We would be remembered by how we treated others especially during their lowest time. So, what would you like people to remember you for?

And another challenge would be… Try asking your bestie how you were with them.

How was I to you?


Lissa ❤️




Author who wrote about Life in Yemen | Writer on Medium with Random Topics | Catholic by Faith