I’ve already mentioned how Bilbo was faced with a choice at the beginning of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a choice that took him into a world of peril and adventure.
And as significant as the choice was, I then began to think about how it is on the actual journey where the real test begins. About how it is because of what came after he made the choice that his true character was able to shine forth. That with every obstacle the journey threw his way, he rose to the challenge. The true meat of the story lay in what came after he left his comfortable life, in discovering things about himself he never would have had he stayed in the ‘Shire.
If you think about it, Bilbo had no real reason to be journeying with those on their way to retake Erebor. He had not lost his home. He had no prior connection to Gandalf, Thorin or the dwarves that would obligate him to render assistance. And one has to question whatever pickpocketing skills he might possess. He joined them, however, out of a sense of adventure, yes; but also out of a desire to help those who did not have what he had. A compassion for those not able to enjoy the life he did.
Gandalf: Why does it matter? He’s back!
Thorin Oakenshield: It matters. I want to know – why did you come back?
Bilbo Baggins: Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right… I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong, that’s home. That’s why I came back… ’cause you don’t have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.
Then, instead of complaining or running scared, Bilbo chose to time and again to continue on his quest in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. What’s more, he did so with a positive attitude, a ready wit and no small amount of character. He saved – and spared – lives on more than one occasion, even going so far as to risk his own to save the mighty Thorin, a leader who had berated and growled at him from the start.
And, in the process, Bilbo discovered that he did not have to be Gandalf.
He did not have to be Thorin.
He did not have to know how to wield a sword, or fight a battle.
He just had to be who he was.
He encouraged and saved those around him just by being himself.
That’s the kind of life I’d like to live: one where I encourages those around me, makes a difference in their lives, and helps others be who they are. Just by being myself.