No Man Is An Island

  • Gloria Young

My colleagues on the OVA board of directors tasked me with sending a message out to our community on the subject of civility. Civility is defined as “polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior” (Merriam-Webster). Other definitions include “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process” (Spath and Dahke, Institute for Civility in Government).

Most of us moved into this beautiful community to spend our golden years near nature and with people of common interests and values. I am blessed to have lived on Woodley Place for nineteen years surrounded by neighbors whom I look forward to seeing on a regular basis, whether it be walking our dogs or sharing good food and conversation at a neighborhood potluck. Some of these neighbors I am deeply connected with and will remain friends for life.

In contrast to the congeniality of my neighborhood, and while serving my two year term on the OVA board, are the many different personalities living in our community who have strong opinions and get upset over different things. The current board has had to make tough decisions this year for radical improvement to Oakmont’s neglected recreational facilities. But isn’t that what the serenity prayer is about: The quest for the wisdom to know the difference between situations that call for serene acceptance of what’s working (low dues) versus courageous effort to improve what isn’t (outdated and unsafe facilities).

This board has been committed to practicing civil behaviors, and although at times we have failed, it is our hope that the next board will encourage, embrace, and reinforce civility. This includes: *Focusing on facts rather than beliefs and opinions *Focusing on the common good rather than individual agendas *Disagreeing with others respectfully *An openness to others without hostility *Respectfulness of diverse views and groups *Focusing on issues rather than personalities *Offering productive and corrective feedback to those who behave in demeaning, disrespectful, and discriminatory ways.

The great John Donne wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent…if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore, never send to know for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Or to use another metaphor, humanity is an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere you set the whole thing trembling. Just as John Donne believed any man’s death, when we are confronted by it, reminds us of our common destiny as human beings: to be born, to live to struggle a while…we are all in this together.

Let us remember that as we move around Oakmont and as we act with kindness, or with indifference, or with hostility toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble. The life that we touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, or who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time our touch will be felt. Our lives are linked together. No man is an island.

Gloria Young, President

OVA Board of directors