Have you seen the Lord of the Rings movie, or read the book?
There’s a lot of things that stand out in that story, but one in particular seems to have a lot of bearing on our lives in a pandemic and a struggle that just continues on and on. It’s a part of the story about true companionship, and what we do when the going gets tough.
Near the end of the story, two characters, Sam and Frodo, have almost made it to their goal. Frodo is carrying the One Ring to a volcano, Mount Doom, in order to destroy it and defeat evil. But the burden is too much, he’s tired, he’s hungry, and the struggle he’s had overcomes him. He can’t go on.
Sam, though, his loyal friend who has traveled with him far from home, knows how to help his wingman. He says, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you,” And that’s just what he does. Sam can’t take the burden from his friend, but he can be there for him and help him when he can’t go on.
So we learn two things from this story, in a time when things can be hard in a way they’ve never been before.
The first thing we learn from Sam: as much as he wants to solve his buddy’s problem, he can’t make it go away or come up with a magic solution. What he can do is to be authentically present, to carry his friend through the struggle, and to let him know he’s not alone. We can pick each other up and carry each other through the hard times, we can be present, and even if we can’t solve the problem, we can deal with things in community.
The other thing we learn is from Frodo: that it is OK to not be able to do it alone. Frodo has to be carried, because he can’t do it by himself. We, too, are not wired to get through life alone, but to be in community, to rely on each other, and to speak up when we need a hand. They get through it together both because no one hesitates to help, but also because no one hesitates to ask for help when they need it.
We should be mindful of both — look for opportunities to help our friends, our families, and our wingmen carry their burdens, and to be honest with those friends, families, and wingmen when we need to be carried. None of us is in this fight alone — so let’s act like it, and have those honest conversations.