Letter from the Vicar (November 2008)
Many of you know that I enjoy going to the cinema. Among the many great films I’ve seen one of my favourites is The Shawshank Redemption.
It tells the story of a man named Andy Dufresne who is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and sentenced to two life sentences to be served at the notoriously harsh Shawshank Prison. While in gaol he becomes friendly with Ellis Redding, known as Red. In the first years of his imprisonment he is dogged by threats and harassment, and is savagely beaten and attacked. But Andy’s knowledge of accounting and income taxes come to the attention of the guards who use him to help them with their financial queries.
The prison warden, Samuel Norton, soon capitalises on Andy Dufresne’s ability and works out a programme to put prisoners to work for local contracts. Andy is corruptly employed to hide the embezzled funds for Norton. All this time he works to improve the prison library and to bring education to the inmates. In due course a prisoner enters Shawshank who backs up Andy’s tale of innocence. But, because he fears he will lose out if Andy is released, Norton has him killed and Andy sent to solitary confinement for two months. The morning after he gets out of solitary, he is missing from his cell; he escaped the prison having tunnelled through the walls. He got out by passing through the prison’s disgusting sewers as long as five football pitches. Having kept records of the corruption in the prison, Andy sends his notes to a local newspaper, and walks away with Norton’s fortunes. When Red is finally released from prison, he follows the instructions given to him by Andy to find a further note hidden beneath a tree. This eventually leads him to meet Andy on the coast of Mexico where they set up a new life together.
The Shawshank Redemption is a great film about hope in a setting where it would be all too easy to lose all hope. We all need hope. It is one of the most important things in life. The opposite of hope is despair and to be in a state of despair is to be in a bad place. It is absolutely vital never to give up hope even when things seem bad. Believing in God is one source of hope. It can help and support you when the going gets tough. But though it is important to me and to many people, being a Christian is not the only source of hope.
Some get it from other religions or by believing in an ideology of some kind. Some people get hope from relationships. Many get it from love. Some get it from achieving things. Some people hope for a better world and work to make that hope come about. There is no one ‘right’ source of hope.
Andy in The Shawshank Redemption had the hope of freedom and the vindication of his name. He gave hope to others through education. Whatever your source of hope keep it alight, like a burning flame. Never let it die!