Little, Nameless Unremembered Acts of Kindness and Love
“The best portion of a good man's life:
his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”
No Man is an Island
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 writes that “no man is an island,” and I have never lived in a place where this is truer than it is on Nantucket. Geographically, we may be an Island, but in the sense of community and generosity of spirit, we are also all “a piece of the continent,/a part of the main.” We take care of each other in extraordinary ways.
Nantucket has suffered two tragic deaths in the last few weeks. In each case, people all over the island turned out to search the woods and bogs for the individuals in distress. Many of those people did not even know the person who was lost. All they knew was that someone was in trouble and that they could possibly help. Friends rallied around the families with love and support.
We take care of each other when big and terrible things happen, but we also take care of each other in the small ways that also matter. Some wonderful examples of this can be found on one of the Nantucket Facebook groups where the following notices appeared in the last few days..
- Under a picture of a big stuffed bunny holding a small stuffed bunny was this note: “I suspect a kiddo is missing this momma and its baby! It is at the corner of Surfside Road and Larrabee Lane.”
- “If you are missing a kayak, please message me with a description.”
- “Saw a Mother and baby ducks crossing the road to the pond on Otakomi when I was taking the kids to school. On the way back, I noticed the mother quacking frantically over the sewer grate. I stopped and looked down into the grate. Two of her ducklings had fallen through. Who do I call to get them out?”
- “Still searching for a “borrowed” bike. I never mind anyone borrowing it—just looking for its safe return.”
- Lost animals are frequently posted, and those posts are invariably followed by posts from people who have walked the areas in which the animals were lost looking for them. Almost always, they are eventually found and united with their frantic owners.
The poet William Wordsworth asserts that the “best portion of a good man's life are his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” This sentiment perfectly reflects the attitudes and actions of Nantucket residents. A lost bunny, baby ducks in distress, a missing boat, a "borrowed bike"—these are all small things that matter a great deal in the world. There is even a group called “Buy Nothing,” where people give things away for free. The mantra of this site is “Buy nothing—Random Acts of Kindness All Day Long.” Recently people have offered baskets, beds, shoes clothing, and services.
In the last week, I experienced similar “acts of kindness.” My jeep is in the repair show for a while—longer than planned because a part has to be ordered—and I was faced with the possibility of being carless for a while. Because I live out on Eel Point and because I work on various parts of the island, a car is really a necessity. I posted on one of the Nantucket groups asking if anyone would rent a car for a very low price. I immediately got a response from a friend saying that he had a car and would be happy to loan it to me. I was delighted. The morning I dropped my car off at Don Allen, he picked me up. In the process of learning about his car, I discovered that it was his ONLY car. He was not loaning me his second car, as I had assumed; he was loaning me the only mode of transportation he had with the exception of his bike. One day, he had to walk to work in a pouring rain storm. I mean, really, only on Nantucket would someone loan you his ONLY car! Eager to get his car back to him, I mentioned it to friends. Within hours, I had several offers of cars to borrow. Right now, a friend has loaned me her car for over a week while she is off-Island, and I am truly grateful.
On a somewhat less grand but equally significant level, I had another opportunity to experience the generosity and responsiveness of Nantucketers. I wanted to do a small arrangement for the Daffodil Weekend Nantucket Garden Club competition. Unfortunately, my tiny daffodils had already bloomed and the flowers were well beyond their prime. I couldn’t find more of them anywhere. Again, I went to one of the Nantucket Facebook groups . In minutes I received the following response: “I am a landscaper, and I have a client with two giant fields of daffys. I will call her and ask if she would mind if we picked some.” As it turned out, there were no small daffys still blooming, but this stranger was willing to go to all this effort to help me find the daffodils I needed.
When my children left the island last September, they were worried that I would be lonely. They were concerned about the isolation of Eel Point. What would happen if I had an accident? What if I had a problem? As it turns out, they had nothing to worry about. Not only have I made wonderful friends, but I know that there is a community out there of both friends and strangers—all of whom are prepared to help anyone whenever help is needed.
And, please remember—I am part of that community. If you need help, please always email, call, or just put out a plea on one of the Facebook pages, and I promise to respond and help in any way I can.
This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting. In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”