Invaluable support

We all need it, even if we fail to acknowledge the hand at the time or turn away from it later in life, we need the timely support of others in our life.

At a critical point in the final chapters of the Lord of the Rings Frodo’s burden of the ring has reached a near fatal weight. Sam is aware of his place in this epic journey, he is a support, the responsibility of the ring is not his, the weight of that burden clearly hangs around the neck of his friend. The other day over the Christmas break as my son watched the film again I was struck by Sam’s comment to Frodo, in that most desperate of moments as Frodo teetered on the cliff of despair about to give up the journey, Sam acknowledges he can’t carry the ring, but “I can carry you” and scoops up Frodo to continue the journey. LOTR_King208SeanAstin

We are, at different times in our lives both a Frodo, in need of support and help on our journey and potentially someone’s Sam, a person in a position to offer support of a kind perhaps unaware of the critical impact it may have on the direction of the life we are supporting. It would be nice if in each instance there were clear signs of the need, the request for help, and even clearer signs of gratitude for the help received. I’ve found it is easier for those who provide assistance to revisit those waters if they have been thanked for their help in the past – not necessary for some but generally helpful for most. Similarly it would be easier if people would just ask for help when they need it, but that is not easy to do in a society bent on rewarding independence. Remember Frodo never asked Sam really for anything…,in fact on more than one occasion he turned on the very source of support and loyalty when he needed him most

Help, not replace

I particularly like to ponder the awareness of Sam in this instance and consider how it might apply in the life of family, friends, students, and colleagues. It bares repeating, Sam, blessed with greater physical strength at the moment, did not remove the ring and burden from Frodo. Rather, he provided the support he could, he did what Frodo, at that point, could not do and placed his friend in a position to succeed in his mission.

Let me do it for you…is not the same

Showing someone how, helping someone where they are and in the manner they need is not the same as taking over or doing for. One builds capacity, the other replaces, substitutes, and likely contributes to a failure to grow as a result of the absence of the test. I hope to learn better how to see the need and provide the appropriate assistance in a timely fashion. I hope too that I am better able to accept the support of others when offered, perhaps that is the true double sided edge of the Hobbit sword and this experience of Sam and Frodo.

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Difference maker

We can make a difference

I can’t remember who said this but I recall reading if you think you can or can’t make a difference you’re right. At the core is a belief that you can make a difference in the lives of others it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Check out this simple example from Washington DC.

 

At great price, stand for what you believe

Is there a price too great?

The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial

Today a visitor to Washington, DC will easily walk down what is called the Mall, heading away from the Congress buildings past the Washington monument, the Whitehouse just off a block or two to your right, past the relatively new World War II monument, and down the length of the reflecting pond toward the Lincoln Memorial.  The walk takes you past close to a dozen buildings which combine to form the Smithsonian Museums, the Holocaust museum is just a couple blocks off the mall almost directly opposite the Whitehouse. To the left of Lincoln, the Korean War Memorial, to the right Vietnam. Just past the Lincoln memorial off to the left toward the Jefferson memorial the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and if you walk around back of the Lincoln memorial you can see across the bridge the elevated land of Arlington National Cemetery. General Lee, leader of the confederate army, owned the land and his house today is just above the John F. Kennedy memorial both of which look directly out over everything I’ve just described looking back toward the Congress buildings.

From the Washington Monument looking past the "mall" to Congress
From the Washington Monument looking past the “mall” to Congress

Keeping an eye on the nation sits Abraham Lincoln. Today (January 1, 2013) is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t wait until the war was won to state the outcome, the Battle at Gettysburg would occur 6 months later but the time had come to make the statement, there would be no more slavery in the United States of America. You can examine the original documents and read the transcript here.

The battledfield at Gettysburg
The battledfield at Gettysburg

It is pretty easy today, particularly for those of us in the world who are not American, to forget the price that people have paid all over the world for a measure of what might be recognized as freedom or even basic human rights.  The Civil war in the United States, revolutions in England, France, Russia, to name just a few highlight the courage of people to stand up and be counted for as individuals worthy of consideration.

Lincoln did not start this movement, and it certainly did not end with the American civil war but it serves as a somber reminder that even a nation identified as a bastion of democracy struggles to hold to its own Declaration of Independence as it struggles to bring to actualize the statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

There are over 11 000 books that is some way involve Abraham Lincoln at Amazon. There are only 52 million results on a google search for “Abraham Lincoln”.

When I consider Lincoln, I ponder what I believe about the ability to control my destiny, what I believe about the value of each individual, and what is required of me to ensure that the people I come in contact with are valued, respected and supported as they seek to be the best they can be.

Finally I consider that the struggle for personal human rights and dignity did not end with the civil war in the United States, just as the war didn’t end with the proclamation.

Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right”.  Sound advice, no easy path to follow.