I do sense in many people’s lives that come our presidential election year, a lot of people are edgy, irritated, angry and dis-eased (and this is made worse in a political swing state such as Ohio where I live where we suffer political advertisement and robo-call saturation bombardment). Passions are raised and fear mongers are out in force on the airwaves warning of dire consequences if “the other guy” wins the election. This is on top of the many actual news stories that tell of an unsettled and unsettling world.
Some wish they lived in different times and others wish the times were different. Maybe we long for that more pastoral and care free time which we believe is the way things are supposed to be . . . but in all actuality have seldom been in the history of the world. We can consider wisdom offered to us by novelist JRR Tolkien in his classic novel, The Fellowship of the Ring.
In that Lord of the Rings trilogy and in his other related works, Tolkien presented the Hobbits, the little people of the Shire, as basically good folk who enjoyed life. They were not much concerned with the world beyond the Shire; literally, they were seldom concerned with anything beyond their next meal! They were no threat to the rest of the world and of little importance to world powers. They simply enjoyed their idyllic, prosperous lives and were rather innocent regarding the problems brewing in the rest of the world. Yet troubles came upon them just as they do upon everyone. They were not to blame for these troubles, but they could not escape them either for they lived in the same world as everyone else in Middle-earth. One of the Hobbits, named Frodo, a hero of the story, has his good life totally disrupted by the evil and war which were consuming the rest of Middle-earth. He laments:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Even Gandalf the Wise, a wizard with amazing powers, longevity of life and knowledge of the world and its powers good and evil, also wishes that problems would occur in some other time and place. Every generation,however, has to deal with the reality of their contemporary situation.
The reality for each of us is that we cannot determine the times we live in, nor the dramas that engulf our world. But within those major events, we can shape our lives at the personal level – how we respond to events and how we relate to those around us. We do have power at that level.
We don’t create the times we are born into, but each decides what to do with the time given to them on earth. And even the most insignificant of us, as was true of Frodo of the Shire, are capable of contributing in a most significant way to the times in which we find ourselves.
It may be that we don’t have to do some great thing, but what is required of us is that we are faithful and true in the little things which are in our power to effect.