Note: I normally write these blogs to point you the way to QuikSurg, my unique minor surgery clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee but today I write this one for the sheer joy of a great story. Sure, there is a connection, but it seems obvious so I will just leave you with the story…
With the pardon of Alice Johnson by President Trump last week, I have been reminded once again of the incredible feelings that Ms. Johnson must have felt (and is still feeling) when she stepped out of the prison gate in Alabama and breathed “free” air. Her words: “When I saw my family and I got outside that prison van, I felt like I was flying and not running!”
She was incarcerated for first-time drug charges and money laundering and received a life sentence. Having served 21 years of her sentence, a celebrity (Kim Kardashian West) heard of her story and made a visit to the White House to meet with President Trump. After their conversation, Trump felt that she had paid her debt and granted Alice Johnson clemency.
21 years is a long time to remain hopeful, I think I would have trouble after 21 days. Surely you remember the story of the Shawshank Redemption? There were 3 main characters: Andy Dufresne, Ellis Redding (Red), and Brooks Hatlen. Andy was found guilty of killing his wife and although he was innocent, he spent nearly 20 years at Shawshank before he made his daring and well-planned escape. Who could forget the joy on Andy’s face as he emerged from that drain pipe outside the prison walls in the middle of the pouring rain?
But Brooks and Red both walked right out of the prison gate, legally. Brooks was paroled after 50 years in Shawshank and after a few days of freedom he “couldn’t make it on the outside” and hung himself. After Andy’s departure, Red was also eventually paroled after almost 40 years in prison and he considered suicide as well. Why? Both men were free! But both men had become victims of “institutionalization”. The prison had become their home, the place where they were “safe”. Outside the walls was their “prison” where they felt incarcerated.
If you saw the movie (and who didn’t!), Red didn’t hang himself. He remembered a promise he had made with Andy to come to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. After all, Andy would need “a man who knows how to get things” in his charter fishing business. Red finally had his freedom moment on the Greyhound bus heading down the coast to see Andy. Listen to these words from Red as he gazes out of the bus window at the Pacific Ocean:
“I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.” Not bad for a man who had forgotten how to hope!
Alice Johnson says she never lost hope, she obviously never became institutionalized. She was an “Andy”. She now feels the joy only a free person can feel. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40sHIfh8k80&t=1s