“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 From Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623) Meditation #17
On August 25th of this year, the bell tolled for John McCain. To be sure Mr. McCain was a war hero, a Senator, a maverick politician, but even more he was a father, husband, son. He lived his life on his own terms and whether you agreed with him politically or not, he was a man of integrity. That doesn’t mean he was always right. I believe too often we try to link the two together. So just like peanut butter goes well with chocolate, we think if someone has integrity then they must also be right in all their decision making. Just to be clear: people of integrity can and do make mistakes. Mr. McCain, I believe, would agree with me.
I also believe that Mr. McCain knew something that most of us have forgotten and why I began this article with a quote from John Donne. You see the beginning of this meditation #17 talks about how we are all connected and if something happens to one of us it happens to us all. So, when people live in poverty, that poverty impacts us all, when someone decides to commit a mass murder, that mass murder impacts us all, when we go to war, that war impacts us all. But the reverse is also true. When we choose to be kind, helpful, and loving, those kind, helpful and loving acts ripple out into our society and in many cases help to heal the impact of the wounds we carry.
So the bell tolls, calling us to stop looking inward at how we can better our own life, our own selfish desires and instead calls us to look outward into the world and find ways we can leave this amazing and beautifully diverse world we live in… in a little better shape than when we entered. Senator John McCain gave his life to serve his country, a country that he loved and served with his whole heart. I also believe (and it is ok if you don’t agree with me) he left our country in a little better place than when he arrived. One thing I know is certain: the work is not complete…there is still much to be done. You see, no matter what, the work continues and it is up to us, each one of us to answer our own call by rolling up our own sleeves and getting busy. It has been so for every generation and will continue for every generation to come.
So…you may be asking: “What should I do?” or even “What can I do?” I can’t answer those questions for you about the work you are called to do in this world. The thing is, for each one of us that answer will be different as each one of us has different abilities. Maybe it is as simple as choosing a mile of highway and picking up all the trash you can find each week. There is however one thing we can all do…we can all start by treating people well. That takes no extra time and yet it can be very impactful. In fact, it is my very humble opinion that we all have a responsibility to treat one another respectfully. Just remember, we can respect each other and still not agree with one another.
So whether you agreed with Senator John McCain’s politics or not, whether you think he was a great American hero or not, the one thing that is certain, the bell tolled for John McCain. And in his death, the world is a little less.
God speed Mr. McCain.