Living Through Strange Times

On my list of all-time favorite films and books is the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The core of the story is about a Hobbit named Frodo Baggins who is tasked with destroying the dangerous One Ring to prevent it from falling into the hands of the dark lord Sauron. During the first book/movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, while traveling through the dark and dismal Mines of Moria, Frodo confides his despair to the wizard Gandalf. (Watch the clip.)

Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf: “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 to us.”

I find myself revisiting Gandalf’s advice as we move deeper into these strange times. Often I find it easy to be like Frodo and wish this invisible enemy would go away so that we can resume life as normal. But Gandalf’s words remind us that while we all must endure bad times, the best way to get through them is to decide how we will respond to them.

Recall the formula, E+R=O from our friends at Focus 3. It stands for: Event plus Response equals Outcome. It acknowledges that we are always impacted by external events beyond our control. However, we can mindfully take control of our response to those events in order to get a better outcome. This is essentially what Gandalf is sharing in that moment and it is a wisdom that has profound implications.

Across the world we see normal people stepping up to make a difference in seemingly small but amazingly meaningful ways. Whether it is shopping for those who are home bound, sewing masks for first responders, or giving free food to those out of work, the ways to contribute are endless. For me, an amazing example came out of Spain where a fitness instructor lead quarantined residents of the neighboring apartment buildings through an exercise routine from their balconies. Everyone has the capacity to impact lives. As with Frodo, the small Hobbit in a big and dangerous world, it is ultimately through his perseverance and his friendships that he succeeds. As we walk this path together (in a socially distanced way of course) we can commit to make small differences that will have profound positive impacts on all of us.

So I invite you to consider what you will do with the time that is given you to make the world a better place.

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