John Donne, a British poet born in 1572, wrote a poem, NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, that finished with the words Ernest Hemingway used in the title of one of his best known books. Donne’s poem says, “And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
In a large city, it is easy to forget how connected we need to be to survive. In a small town, the bones of this strategy for survival are more visible. Life seems so much closer to the important realities in our small town. Life, death, weather, crops, the size of hay yield, the number of cattle fattening on the valley floor, the number of wild creatures competing for finite resources, all have a direct bearing on our lives.
To quote John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself . . .”
In a small town such as ours, it is easier to recognize the heroes who have embraced this idea of the importance of the individual and who go the extra mile to make sure our town is secure.
Our Search and Rescue team braves weather, rugged terrain, and long, hard days to protect others from their carelessness or stupidity or their bad luck to be in the wrong place when mountain weather turns treacherous.
In the large city where we lived before, sirens were a part of the background noise, heard and acknowledged briefly, but not carrying any personal connection. Here, if the alarm is law related, we may know the law enforcement men and women who respond to that summons. If the siren is fire related, we know that neighbors will put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the rest of us.
Sometimes the siren announces an ambulance carrying someone we may know down the hill for medical treatment. The sound of the Flight for Life helicopter chills us, and at the same time reminds us of the importance of each member of our community.
“Any man’s death diminishes me,” writes Donne, “Because I am involved in mankind.”