“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” - J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" series has been among my favorite pieces of literature ever since I read the trilogy as a fourth grader. I love that it features a world and characters that are simultaneously wildly foreign while being strikingly familiar. I also love the level of detail that shines throughout the series.
But I think what I love most of all is the theme highlighted by this quote, spoken by Gandalf to Galadriel concerning Bilbo Baggins. For those that are unfamiliar with this series or these characters it may not be obvious why this is so important, so here's a little summary. Gandalf is a powerful wizard. Galadriel is an immortal elf queen. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Hobbits are described as being about the size of human children and are known for their love of things like food and gardens and their disdain for adventure or even leaving their home communities (incidentally it would appear that I am actually a very tall hobbit).
So, here we have one of the most powerful characters in the series telling another of the most influential characters in the series how a child sized homebody gives him courage in dark times. And in the conclusion of the series it is not the power of wizards or elves, the skill of dwarves or the strength of men that wins the day. Instead, it is the dedication and courage of two little hobbits.
In our world today we do not face orcs, goblins, power crazed wizards or giant talking eyeballs. But we still face monsters and darkness. Racial and political tensions rage. Conflicts between and within nations kill and destroy. Diseases and accidents cut lives short. I can't stand to watch the news anymore because every time I do it seems that another terrible thing has happened. At moments it feels hopeless. I still make someone else kill the spiders. I nearly flooded my kitchen with bubbles when I confused dishwasher soap and dish soap. I can't make the hate stop, I can't put an end to war, I can't stop car accidents from happening and I can't cure cancer. And if those are my goals I believe that it truly is hopeless.
But I don't think I have to do any of those things to make the world a better place. I can be kind. I can lend a hand. I can make someone smile. I can show love to everyone I meet. And like Bilbo, and so many others, I can do my part every single day to "keep the darkness at bay...".
And so can you.