As our family watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” together, Boromir lifted up the small golden chain that held the Ring and marveled at it.
“It is a strange fate,” he mused, “that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.”
In the film, of course, those words are an early hint that Boromir is beginning to become entranced by the Ring’s cursed power and that yet again, a character played by Sean Bean is not going to come to a good end. But this time around, the words hit me a little harder.
Maybe because this time around, we’ve seen the danger and life-altering transformation that small things can bring.
A reminder came just a few days ago from Kit Yates, a mathematics expert at Baths University in the United Kingdom. According to Reuters, Yates calculated that all the COVID-19 virus that currently exists in the world could fit inside a can of cola.
No joke – it’s the real thing.
“It’s astonishing to think that all the trouble, the disruption, the hardship and the loss of life that has resulted over the last year could constitute just a few mouthfuls,” Yates said in a statement.
Think about it. Nearly 2.4 million deaths worldwide (as of Saturday). Populations wearing masks, quarantining, keeping their distance. The very way we live, learn and do business utterly transformed. All of it packed into a space that would make the world’s worst Coke.
It sounds impossible. But most of us know the reality. As the great philosopher Yoda once put it, size matters not.
A single nail in the wrong place can bring a two-ton automobile to a stop.
A single tweet at the wrong time can set a nation aflame.
A single sentence with the wrong intent can end a relationship that’s lasted years. Decades.
A strange fate indeed. But as the saying goes, it’s the little things that’ll get you.
And lately the consequences seem to come with lightning speed.
That’s not an argument to live lives of timidity, sitting motionless and silent in the living room lest we say or do anything wrong. But it is a useful reminder to be aware that what we say or do has effects beyond ourselves, and that preventing trouble is a lot easier than fixing it.
That’s why we take cars in for maintenance. It’s why we treat other people with courtesy and respect (or should). It’s why we wear masks and wash hands and look out for our neighbors.
Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes we just want to cast it all aside and do whatever comes in our mind. Most of the time we hold it in, because we know we’re not the only ones who could get hurt.
But there’s another side to it that’s worth remembering. It’s not just the bad things that echo.
Good things add up, too.
They don’t get as much play. But I can still remember every unexpected gift from a neighbor. Every helping hand from a relative. Every stranger who stepped off the sidewalk to make room because Missy’s wheelchair couldn’t social distance. And each act living in my memory helps give me more encouragement to do the same.
When we reach out, when we heal, when we defend from the wrongs of others – it makes a difference. To others. To ourselves.
It takes longer to resonate, of course. It always takes more time to build than it does to destroy. But if we look to help where we can, when we can, as we can and keep doing it … that persistence can also change the world.
Avoid harm. Build help. It seems like such a simple thing, doesn’t it? Such a little thing.
But together, we can make it go viral.
And when we do, I’ll bring some Coke to celebrate.