No man is an island
We believe that reaching out into our community is at least as important an activity as helping our own children and our families grow. Who knows – maybe the children or parents we help today will be able to lend a hand to others, maybe even to Kids of Africa when their time comes? It’s a dream which keeps us going. It’s a dream, which was beautifully described by John Donne.
No man is an island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each 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 manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1642
In our work at Kids of Africa, we are often reminded of the timeless wisdom which shines through these words. To use another metaphor, humanity is like an enormous spider web. If you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling.
Sometime during the extraordinary week that followed the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, the newspapers carried the story that when that crusty old warhorse, Andrej Gromyko, signed the memorial volume at the US embassy in Moscow, there were tears in his eyes. I do not think that you have to be either naïve or sentimental to believe that they were real tears. Surely it was not that the Soviet Foreign Minister had any love for the young American President, but that he recognized that in some sense every man was diminished by that man’s death.
In some sense I believe that the death of Kennedy was a kind of death for his enemies no less than for his countrymen. Just as John Donne believed that any man’s death, when we are confronted with it, reminds us of our common destiny as human beings: to be born, to live, to struggle a while, and finally to die. We’re all of us in it together.
Nor does it need anything as cataclysmic as the death of a President to remind us of this. As we move around this world and we act with kindness, perhaps, or with indifference, or with hostility, toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble. The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who know where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt. Our lives are linked together. No man is an island.
This is more than a dream: it’s a call to reach out and to share our privileges and our burdens. Uganda need not be a poor country. It is gifted by nature and by its young and creative communities. When given a chance, these communities will create their own wealth and development. And with sustainable development, they can become anchors of peace and prosperity in the heart of Africa. That is where a country as romantic, timeless and beautiful as Uganda deserves to be. And that is where we need it to be.
Because no man, no village and no country is an island.