I’m not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan. I’ll be honest right there. It’s dark and stressful, and that’s just not my idea of a great time.
But since the trilogy’s release dates coincided with my birthday weekend for three years, I had the pleasure of consistently going to one of my husband’s favorite movies for my birthday. (It’s OK, he happily sits through Pride and Prejudice and the like with me.)
A funny thing happened every time I went to one of those hobbit-wizard-orc-extravaganzas. I went in with a “this one’s for you, buddy” attitude, but always left saying, “That was actually quite good!” Clearly, the epic tale has become both a literary and cinematic masterpiece.
I’ve been thinking back lately on my experience with LOTR (that’s what the cool kids call it). There’s one dialogue exchange that I keep coming back to over and over recently.
The conversation is between two of the main characters, hobbits Frodo and Sam, at the climax of their perilous journey, and it goes like this:
FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.
SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
I read that dialogue most recently as shared by the actor who played Sam, Sean Astin. He shared it on Sunday, June 12th.
I needed to read those words that day. There’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.
As someone who processes things by writing, it’s tempting to write about every tragedy, every injustice, every dissonant political argument. I remind myself that I can’t write about each one here. That it would get in the way of my objective: intentional whole child development. But as a verbal processor, a lot of my writer brain has been snarled in disturbing current events lately. So much turmoil and heartbreaking tragedy in such a short amount of time.
It’s hard for me to feel like I can write anything else at times like this. As passionately as I feel about topics like developmentally appropriate practice or emergent literacy or positive guidance, it feels hollow to write about any of that in the context of unimaginable suffering. Suffering that I realize goes on every day, but which seems to have gripped so many so deeply and so violently recently.
Sometimes the shadow seems to fall over all of us at once.
But I keep reminding myself of that quote. That hope can shine brighter. That there’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.
Fighting can take on many forms. A struggle. A life’s work. A monumental effort.
And how do we fight for the good that is in this world? I sincerely believe that the best place to start is with our children. It’s the people who come here — teachers and parents — who fight for the good in this world every single day.
It’s impossible to work with children and not believe in a bright future. That’s why it’s said that “teaching is the greatest act of optimism”. Hope and optimism are the fuel for that work. It’s an investment in tomorrow, believing in the capacity of these children, and that the light they shine can be so, so bright.
We don’t fight by destroying. We fight for the good in the world, by creating the good in the world.
As parents and as teachers we fight for good by teaching our children.
We teach them how to consider an opinion that is different from their own, without adopting it and without condemning it. To simply see a new perspective.
We teach them to hold to their beliefs, and show others the civility that allows them to do the same.
We teach them to respect others and to take responsibility for their actions.
We teach them they are loved, so they know how to give love.
We show them the good in this world, and we teach them to be the good in this world.
Because it’s worth fighting for.
When I feel overwhelmed by big, scary things in this world, I first follow the advice of Mr. Rogers (and his mom) and “look for the helpers”. The first responders, the bystanders that selflessly step into the hero role, the volunteers. There are always so many inspiring helpers. And second, I remind myself that when the world feels out of control, that even in the face of those big, scary things, often the most powerful action I can take lies in my simple work with little people. That having a positive impact on just one person creates a ripple that can be felt throughout the world and over generations.
Gandalf, the wise wizard in the trilogy, explained it this way, “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.”
I believe that.
Your story is one that really matters. Every single day. In the minutiae of the day-to day work, please see that you are in a story that really, really matters.
Whether it’s around the dinner table, or on the rug at circle time, you are doing an amazing, powerful work. You are fighting for the good in the world. Thank you for shining your light, and igniting the little lights all around you.
Thank you for holding on to the belief that there is good in the world, and that it’s worth fighting for. Let’s hold on to one another and keep fighting together.