Let’s just get one thing straight from the start: 2016 sucked. Not for everyone, I’m sure, but in a lot of ways, this year seemed to highlight the very worst parts of humanity that we so easily forget. What makes it even worse is that this could only be the tip of the iceberg. I don’t consider myself a hugely political person, but when a mouldy clementine covered in the stringy bits off a corn cob is going to be given the nuclear warhead codes, then I’m going to have strong opinions. But not to mention any names, of course, because I’m classy like that.
Admittedly, I’m being somewhat dramatic, but this year I finally realised just how flawed our world is. I suppose you can argue that it’s always been this way and becoming cynical is part of growing up. I don’t entirely disagree, but it’s clear to me that society is more divided than ever, and some people seem to prefer it that way. For quite some time, I felt disheartened and useless- after all, what could I do that would actually make a difference? I have neither power nor influence, and even my prayers felt like they just weren’t enough. What on earth could one person do in the midst of events they cannot possibly control?
It wasn’t until I re-read the Hobbit (again), that the answer came to me:
So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending.
For context, I have never identified much with Hobbits. They are small and quaint, rather polite and unadventurous- if anything, I am more of a stubborn, hot-headed dwarf! I used to wonder why Tolkein chose to focus many of his main characters on this unassuming race. After all, there are plenty of other characters with greater power and richer backgrounds that Tolkein could have focused on. But instead, we have simple Bilbo Baggins, who inadvertently causes a series of actions that forever changes the political landscape of Middle Earth.
And that action is simply to show kindness.
By choosing to spare a life, Bilbo becomes the catalyst for generations to come. It’s not the action of a heroic warrior or a wise mentor-like figure, it’s a little hobbit who was whisked away on an adventure that he wasn’t sure he even wanted to join. I think the parallels I’m trying to draw are becoming clear, right? As clichéd as it is, even small acts of kindness go a long, long way.
So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending. Despite what Bilbo goes through in the book- dangerous battles and losing his friends- he realises that with every evil deed, goodness will follow. Even the fearful dragon Smaug is slayed by a bargeman with a single arrow. Even the biggest flames will die down and the ground will be blanketed with snow once more. That’s not to trivialise hardship when it happens, it’s to hold on to the belief that things can and will be better- and the best way to do this is just to be kind to others.
There were a lot of things that happened in 2016 that will inevitably affect the coming year. I hope I’m just being paranoid and pessimistic, but I do feel like we may be in for a rough ride. If that’s really the case, then we need kindness more than ever- even for those we think don’t deserve it. And, if this really is a historically bad year, let this dragon have its ending.
Here’s to 2017.