“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 friend's
“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 (1572-1631)
Back when I was a long-haired, angry, rebel-without-a-clue, wannabe hippie teenager growing up on the northwest side of Houston, Texas, I was fond of saying, “Just leave me alone.”
I really thought if everyone – and I mean everyone, including and especially my parents – would just stay out of my way, life would be problem-free and smooth sailing.
Thankfully, with age comes a little wisdom.
As John Donne said, no man is an island. The basic point of the Church of England cleric and poet’s writing is that we are all connected, and what happens to one person essentially happens to everyone. Although we may not see it, the existence of each and every one of us affects the existence of other people.
The Bible says in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Out-do one another in showing honor.”
What immediately comes to mind in that verse is my friend, Joe, and my friend, Bobby. I’ve known these guys for a long time, and we are as close as brothers, maybe closer. We live in different parts of the state, but get together when we can, and I always come away from my time with them feeling like a better person – happier, relaxed, more confident, optimistic.
Bobby and I grew up in the same neighborhood and went all the way through school together. Our parents were friends. We played sports together. Joe and I met at seventh-grade basketball tryouts. My senior year of high school, I only needed two credits to graduate, so by 10 o’clock in the morning, I was out of there and on my way to work, to pay for gasoline in my 1970 Ford Mustang fastback with bucket seats, three-speed on the floor, and a massive stereo system cranking out mostly Led Zeppelin tunes.
I started heading another direction that year, didn’t spend much time at school, and after graduation, the three of us went our separate ways.
More than 30 years later, in a conversation with another former classmate, Bobby’s name came up and I found out where he was working and called him. We made plans to get together, have some lunch and play a round of golf, and when I walked into his office a few weeks later, it was like no time had passed.
Not only was our friendship renewed, there was an instant bond. A connection that defied the passing of time. Joe joined us for golf that afternoon; we had a great time and have stayed in touch and spent time together ever since. Our boys’ weekends down on Galveston Island are legendary.
At one of these weekend classics, we were drinking coffee in the dining room of a gorgeous beach house and talking about what makes our friendship so special. Nobody could really put a finger on the reason.
“I don’t know,” Bobby said. “It just works.”
What I do know is that these two outstanding men make me a better man, and my life would be less without them. They remind me that I am loveable, and capable of loving others. And while neither is what anyone would call a Bible thumper, both are excellent examples of living a Christian life.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says this: “Two are better than one, because they have a return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
I don’t fall a lot, but I stumble quite a bit. Luckily, I have decent balance and some really good friends to straighten me back up.
No man is an island.
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