Big dreams and prison libraries

Yesterday, my 7-year old asked my wife a question. When she responded in the negative fashion, my daughter said to her, “I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer.” She was promptly scolded for being disrespectful and then sent to her room.

But it got me thinking…

The same attitude that can be extremely disrespectful as a child can serve you well in adulthood as you pursue your God-given dreams. Persistence and refusal to “take ‘no’ for an answer” can get you farther than compliance or giving up.

What I’m saying is, sometimes you need to go all “Andy Dufresne building the Shawshank Prison library” on people. If you haven’t seen the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, shame on you. But there’s a portion of the movie where the main character, Andy Dufresne (pronounced doo-frane), a man who is falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, tries to bring a little culture and brightness to a dark place by asking for funds to buy books and media to expand the prison library. First, he asks the Warden for money. The Warden flatly denies his request.

End of the dream, right? Nope.

Andy doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

His reaction is something we can all learn from.

He doesn’t get angry. He doesn’t pitch a fit. He doesn’t throw a pity party. And he doesn’t give up. He asks the Warden for permission to petition the government for funds. He sends one letter a week asking for funds. For six years.  That’s over three hundred letters. It resulted in the government sending boxes and boxes of books and media to the prison along with a check for $200, in efforts just to shut Andy up.

So going “Andy Dufresne” on some people might look something like this…

  • When someone (or a lot of someones) refuses to believe in you, your abilities, or your dreams, you don’t pout. You don’t get angry. You continue to believe in yourself, your God-given talents, and the power of your God-given desires.
  • When you are told you’re not good enough, or that what you desire is never going to happen, you continue to be yourself. You re-double your efforts, and work even harder to make your dreams come true. You don’t do it to prove them wrong. That will be just a nice little side benefit.
  • When life inevitably brings roadblocks or obstacles that seemingly stand in the way of you fulfilling your destiny, you don’t “throw in the towel.” You don’t pitch a fit. You don’t throw a pity party. A wry smile of understanding forms on your lips and you go after it even harder.

There’s a story in the Christian scriptures about a poor widow who seeks justice from a pagan and compassionless judge. He denies her request. Many times. But she continues to come back and ask for justice. She believes in her desires, and she refuses to take “no” for an answer. Eventually, the judge gives in just to shut her up.

What are your dreams? Where are the dark places in this world that your heart wants to bring brightness to? Have you given up? Are you tempted to throw in the towel? Have you been taking “no” for an answer?

Maybe it’s time to go all “Andy Dufresne building a prison library” on some people.

As Babe Ruth famously said…

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.

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