No One is an Island

In the 17th Century, English clergyman and poet John Donne, wrote:

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.

Unfortunately, as a species, human beings often forget how much we need each other, choosing instead to believe that self preservation is the highest goal, and self-reliance is to be lauded over all other traits. While the internet and social media give the appearance of connection, in reality, they often exacerbate isolation by giving a false sense of community without face to face human interaction. It is sadly too common to observe most people in a social setting interacting with their phones, rather than directly engaging with the human beings around them.

While I regularly work hard to build community, I confess that I also pride myself in self-sufficiency, and I certainly utilize social media on a regular basis. Indeed, I work for myself, without any assistance from any employees. Yet, from time to time, I am vividly reminded on a very practical level, how much I need the help and support of others.

My wife, Sheryl, and I are fortunate to own a beautiful piece of land in central Wisconsin, on Goose Lake, much of which is full of old growth oak forest. After camping there for many years, we used our savings to build ourselves a lovely vacation home. Since it is in a forest, and trees are naturally dying on a regular basis, we use a wood stove to heat our home when we stay there. However, trees do not magically cut themselves up into fire wood. While I certainly cut, split and haul plenty of wood on my own, occasionally, the task in front of me is simply too great and I need help.

With winter approaching, and indeed this fall setting both snow and cold records, I knew that the firewood that I had leftover from last year was dwindling. So, I called on some friends to help me out yesterday. A few years ago, I hired someone to take down a dead 125 year old oak near our house to prevent the possibility that it might fall on our house. As it fell, it took down a nearby 85 year old oak. He agreed to cut it up into wood stove size logs, but he did not split it.

Two years ago, I rented a hydraulic log splitter for the first time, and three friends who were visiting from out of town, helped me split about 2/3 of the two trees. It took most of the weekend, and there is no question that I could not have split all that wood on my own. In fact, the logs at the base of the tree were so large, that it took 2-3 of us to roll some of them over to the splitter.

So, this year, I knew I needed help once again. One of my best friends, Greg, often spends the weekend with us at Goose Lake and he planned to do so this weekend. I asked him if he would help, and he agreed. But, I knew I needed two other helpers. My wife had previously mentioned that she has a friend, Judy, who loves to cut wood, so she asked her if she could help, and Judy said that both she and her husband Billy, whom we had never met, would help us on Sunday.

Before Judy and Billy arrived, I went to go pick up the splitter from the hardware store. They had arrived by the time I returned, and along with Greg, they were ready to help.

As you can see from this picture, taken when only a few large logs remained to be split, we were all pretty exhausted, from hauling wood and rolling those large logs to the splitter. I think I am the only one smiling, because though sore and exhausted, I was so pleased to have this help from my friends: old and new.

L-R: Greg, me, Judy and Billy

We worked efficiently, with each person taking on a role that suited their abilities, and teaming up when necessary for the heavier work. My friends took breaks when they needed to, but never gave up, despite sore muscles and cold and wet hands from the snow that soaked through all of our gloves.

Sheryl prepared a fantastic spread for lunch and then I finished stacking the rest of the wood, which I am sure will last us through the winter.

I know that my body is quite sore today, so I assume that Greg, Judy and Billy are sore as well, from hours of rolling, lifting, and stacking all that wood. That soreness is my body’s reminder that I could not have gotten this job done without the help of my generous friends, as well as my wife, who cooked up a storm to replenish all those calories we burned. That soreness is also a reminder that none of us can survive without the help of neighbors, friends, co-workers and family. When we help each other out, we all do better, because no one is an island.


For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

Categories Building Community, Friendship, TeamworkTags , ,

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