When the other inmates are asked what is one thing that they will remember most about prison when they leave this place, their common response is “Nothing. I don’t ever want to think of this place, what I did to get here, or even the judicial system ever again. I want to sweep it under the rug and move on with my life.”
I always find that a little shocking……because if they are ever going to learn from their mistakes, they are going to have to remember where they’ve been and remember what they went through to change their way of thinking, their behavior, and their lives.
When I’m asked that same question, my response is not of the ordinary. I always tell others that I’ll remember that I made a difference to a vast number of people I crossed paths with…..from officers, to inmates, even to family and friends. My time is not and has not been wasted. I chose to put forth the effort to better my life and to help better other lives as well.
I will remember everything about the number of walls and fences I’ve been behind.
I will remember the sleepless and stressful nights.
I will remember each of my cellies, their names, their habits, likes, dislikes, and what kind of person they were.
I will remember the fights I saw and the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah I lived in.
I will remember the chow hall food and the commissary lines.
I will remember the visitors who came to visit and the quick 15 minute phone calls I made to my loved ones.
I will remember the 17 cents hourly wage and the 25 cents I earned to officiate volleyball matches.
I will remember the laughs, the cries, the smiles and the angry times that came upon me.
I will remember the sports leagues and the prize bags won for competitions.
I will remember the popcorn and snow-cones that were given out during the summer holidays.
I will remember the days we could not leave the unit or even the cell, except to use the bathroom.
I will remember the court rooms, attorneys, prosecutors, and judges.
I will remember the orange jump suits, khaki uniforms, and grey workout clothes.
I will remember the inmates that made an impact on me and the ones I led to Christ and will see again someday in heaven.
I will remember the crime I did that put me here for the past five years and counting.
I will remember getting arrested.
I will remember the first day and night in jail.
I will remember entering prison for the first time.
I will remember the death threats and going to “the hole” for protection.
I will remember the people I hurt by my actions.
I remember. I remember. I remember.
I also remember God’s hedge of protection around me 24 hours a day. I remember surrendering my life wholeheartedly to God. I remember breaking down and crying out to Him. I remember the peace He poured upon me. I remember the prayers I sent up to Him and the answers He gave me. And I remember the forgiveness He bestowed upon me.
I remember. I remember. I remember.
To be honest, I would not have asked for a better life. In my 38 years on this earth, this prison experience has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. God got my attention. He hit me across the face when He disciplined me. He grabbed me by the collar and told me to change my ways.
And I listened. God came back into my life again. I put Him first. I’m doing His work and leading His ministry right where He has me. I am that light in this dark place. I have that joy. I have that happiness. I have that love.
That is why I’ll remember everything about this prison sentence. Prison has made me into what and who I am today. Coming to prison was not part of God’s plan. But transforming me, molding me, and using me to further His kingdom while I was in prison was part of His plan. And for that I will always remember.