In the movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the following dialogue is found:
Galadriel: Mithrandir… Why the hafling?
Gandalf: Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? I don’t know. Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were believers in a Christianity that saw the acts of everyday faithful believers as being powerful enough to sanctify the world. Though both believed in the heroic deeds of great saints, yet both saw God working through the “ordinary” people of God as part of the process of bringing the presence of the Kingdom of God to bear on a sinful world.
The powerful witness of a “merely” Christian family, who brought their children up in the fear of God, with faith and love, was sufficient to overcome many of the plots of the devil and to be a witness to the world. You see, the world is often not merely impressed with the self-sacrifice of the great martyrs but also with the witness of “normal” families who show by example how to live out a faithful Christian commitment. For instance, Saint John Chrysostom writes:
“For generally the children acquire the character of their parents, are formed in the mold of their parents’ temperament, love the same things their parents love, talk in the same fashion, and work for the same ends” (St. John Chrysostom, On Marriage and Family Life, SVS Press, 1986, p. 64)
Saint Basil the Great writes that our daily work is part of our “goal of piety”:
It is, therefore, immediately obvious that we must toil with diligence and not think that our goal of piety offers an escape from work or a pretext for idleness, but occasion for struggle, for ever greater endeavor, and for patience in tribulation, so that we may be able to say: “In labor and painfulness, in much watching, in hunger and thirst.” Not only is such exertion beneficial for bringing the body into subjection, but also for showing charity to our neighbor in order that through us God may grant sufficiency to the weak among our brethren, according to the example given by the Apostle in the Acts when he says: “I have shown you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak,” and again: “that you may have something to give to him that suffereth need.” Thus we may be accounted worthy to hear the words: “Come ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.”
Thus, in the midst of our work can we fulfill the duty of prayer, giving thanks to him who has granted strength to our hands for performing our tasks and cleverness to our minds for acquiring knowledge, and for having provided the materials, for that which is in the instruments we use and that which forms the matters of the art in which we may be engaged, praying that the work of our hands may be directed toward its goal, the good pleasure of God.
More than that, Saint Augustine of Hippo even points out that Our Lord himself made our daily work holy because he showed, by his example, that daily work if honorable and respectable:
This much I know, that he was neither a thief nor a robber, neither a charioteer nor a hunter, neither an actor nor a gambler, but that innocently and honorably he performed such labors as are suitable for human occupation, such as the work of carpenters, builders, shoemakers, farmers and similar trades… Respectability does not belittle what is scorned by those who desire to be called honorable but do not wish to be so. Hence the Apostle (Paul) would not refuse to perform any rustic labor or to engage in any workman’s craft.
And so, Gandalf is right. It is the “small deeds” of ordinary men and women that keeps darkness at bay.