“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
- Helen Keller
Linda: One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption written by Stephen King. In 1994, this terrific movie came out starring Tim Robins as Andy and Morgan Freeman as Red. The hero, Andy Dufresne, has been wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder and sent to Shawshank Prison for life. The acting was brilliant. I thought it was going to win academy rewards, but that same year the movie Forrest Gump came out and ran off with the awards.
In the Shawshank Redemption, the character Robbins portrays, enjoys his hobby of sculpting rock with a tiny chisel, a hobby that allows him to pass the time incarcerated with a bit more ease. The prison authorities allow him the tool to sculpt chess pieces and other things. Over the years of his incarceration, no inmate or prison guard can imagine that such a small hammer could cause any harm.
The prison officials allow him to have a life-size poster of a sexy woman on the wall of his cell. Every night for many years, he uses his small chisel to quietly chip away at the stone wall behind the poster to create a hole. During this time, no one, not guards nor the inmates, ever notices anything a miss. He has been patiently, secretly working on a tunnel through the sewer line, digging it out inch by inch with his tiny rock hammer. He would quietly scrape the stonewall and dirt in the middle of the night, gathering together the crumbling rock in the pockets of his jeans. The next day, he unobtrusively drops the grit from his pockets in the exercise yard and without anyone ever observing him.
Meanwhile, because of his banking and accounting background, the warden has Andy fix the books for his crooked scheme of using the inmates for construction work, and then skimming money off the top for his personal gain.
After Andy has served fifteen years of his sentence, a newly admitted young inmate says that he was in another prison with a man who bragged about killing Andy’s wife. Andy reports this to the warden, but the warden, fearing his private moneymaking scheme might be exposed if Andy were exonerated, discourages any further investigation. Even though Andy swears to keep his secret, the warden puts Andy in solitary confinement. When the warden finds out that the new inmate will testify in court on Andy’s behalf, he has the young man murdered.
Andy suffers great pain and disappointment, but after he’s released from solitary confinement, he tells his friend Red that he will never give up hope. “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” He holds fast to his vision that some day, he will break out of the prison to have a life of freedom in Mexico.
One night in a loud thunderstorm, Andy’s patient careful planning pays off. He is able to make his escape to freedom through the hole in his cell wall he has dug out behind the poster. In an exciting seen, we see Andy crawl through five hundred yards of sewer lines filled with human waste. As he comes out of the sewer, he stands in the midst of a driving rain, throws off his prison clothes, and spread his arms wide as he looks to heaven.
His hope never died and proved to be his redemption. After thirty years in prison, he has escaped. He had also documented the warden’s crooked scheme and sent the evidence to the authorities. As the police are knocking at the warden’s door to arrest him, the warden commits suicide. Andy is completely exonerated.
The movie satisfies the innate desire for the wicked villain warden to get justice. And there is a terrific feeling of satisfaction when the wrongly convicted Andy breaks free. I am inspired by his hope, patience, and diligence in the face of horrible conditions, but the part that touches me most deeply is that he is a steady plodder.
Although I am female, it is so easy for me to identify with Andy, the male hero of the story. Being a steady plodder by nature, I find it validating to keep doing what I am doing. My daily practice is to be the most loving, contributing person that I can be. In the process, I am rewarded to find that over time my relationship continually breaks through to new levels of fulfillment.
No matter if it’s wealth that we want to accumulate, mastery of a musical instrument, professional success, being an excellent parent, or creating a fulfilling, lasting loving marriage, an inspirational lesson is available in this tale for all of us. We can just keep doing our small parts every day to make it happen. If we hold the vision of breaking through eventually, and keep plugging away at whatever is our heart’s desire, even under terrible conditions and awful odds for success, we may, like Andy eventually prevail. And like Andy, go on to live a life where we are free to be who we are in safety and joy.
So many people want the big breakthrough and instant success. They want the unmistakable sign like the bible story where God is speaking in a strong booming voice out of the burning bush to Moses in the desert. People crave instant enlightenment and long for a gorgeous relationship right now. Although these dramatic breakthroughs do occur, it is likely that there have been months or years of background that led to the big change. It may appear sudden, but rarely is.
What is much more likely to be the case is that slow steady plodding that wins the race. Great relationships evolve over time, conversation by conversation, negotiating to have both partner’s needs met, managing differences so they don’t continue to create tension, one generous gesture after another, a tender caress, learning from transgressions, apologizing and forgiving, consistently showing up to be present, committed listening, laughing, and celebrating together. These are some examples of the chiseling away at the rock wall that allows the breakthrough to freedom. The reward for our diligent work is to live in a trusting partnership, free to be ourselves and to be loved as is. It just doesn’t get better than that.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate