No Man is an Island

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

–John Donne, Excerpt from Meditation XVII

My father had me recall this the other day, “no man is an island.” As the time comes closer for me to research graduate schools, I am reminded of how difficult it is to leave behind one’s family and community. These feelings are especially strong right now, in the wake of losing a dear member of the Rennie family and following another eye surgery which has left me near blind for at least two weeks.

Mid-May, we were all shocked and horrified to learn that a wonderful man and friend was shot and killed asking for a jumpstart for his car. However, we soon learned that Mitt had touched so many lives in incredibly positive ways. His bouyant and joyful spirit lives on in each of us, and his smile will forever live in each of our smiles. Listening to the numerous accounts of how Mitt had changed our lives, I was filled with a sense of peace at his memorial. One story in particular caught my ear. A young boy told of how Mitt had seen him sitting, sad, through one of his shows. Mitt told him not to be sad, but instead to act happy. “If you act sad,” the boy told us Mitt had said,” then everyone will treat you like you’re sad, and you’ll stay sad.” Mitt advised the boy instead to be happy because happiness would then follow him until he was truly happy. I thought about that story for weeks, and I am sure I will tell it again and again. So much of our lives we spend being upset, angry or sad. Certainly we cannot be smiling and joy all the time, but certainly wallowing in our sadness can only bring more sadness.

My father once told me that when he felt like being upset, he would set aside awhole day for it. He would wake up that morning and tell himself that he wouldn’t smile that day or laugh. He told me that he could usually only last a few hours because there always seemed to be something to smile about. I have to admit, it’s very difficult to stay in a bad mood around my dad. People like this, our family and our friends, are the people who lift our spirits and care for us when we’re not at our best.

This past week and this coming week have been trying. My head has ached from the surgery, and my vision is extremely blurry. Much as I hate depending on others and asking for help, I’ve had to do both. My family and friends, of course, have responded to my needs with an eagerness I hadn’t quite expected. Not that I don’t expect people to be kind, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t usually expect to be taken care of. How wrong I’ve been, and mistrusting. How reluctant I’ve been to need others, when we all crave so much to be needed.

It’s amazing to me how one smile, one kind word, one ride to work can mean the world to the recipient. We don’t even notice how many lives we touch until we remember how the slightest gesture of another touches our own lives. As I look to the future and a possible need for community in another city, I cannot help but think of my community here and how everyone has touched my life and changed it. Thank you all so very much! I might be mostly blind right now (please for give the typos!) but I see clearly how much relationships are what make us human and what hold us together as a people. I love you all. Keep smiling!

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2 thoughts on “No Man is an Island

  1. Michelle Fowler

    What a lovely, thoughtful entry Ali! I’m so glad that you have such great friends and family close by to help in so many ways. I hope to see you when we come down next weekend. 🙂

  2. Can you still recite this from memory? Isn’t the thought even more uplifting now that you are older and better able to understand? So sorry to hear of your troubles, but the girl I know will persevere. Thinking of you!

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