Editorial: Round Lake Beach gathering invokes the power of community at a horrible time
In his famous "Meditation 17," written as he lay deathly ill, poet John Donne makes the case for the interrelatedness of all people, indeed all things. It is a darkly romantic reflection, whose memorable injunctions that "no man is an island" and "never send to learn for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" have become almost universal tenets of everyday thinking about the nature of humanity. Even so, we rarely incorporate Donne's proposition into our own daily experience.
Until, that is, some unimaginably terrible event grabs us by the collarbone and shakes us into submission.
At such times, the recognition of our innate connections to each other may be our only solace, our only way to accommodate events so profoundly horrific that they defy comprehension. At such times, we need each other's presence desperately.
At such times, we understand the true essence of community.
So, it is that we think today of Round Lake Beach, population 27,313, where a crowd gathered Wednesday night to, in the words of Police Chief Gilbert Rivera, "relay a message of love and compassion."
The object of their emotion was a local mother -- no doubt a friend and neighbor to some, to others a mere but valued stranger -- who wished her three young children sweet dreams by phone on Sunday night and on Monday morning found them lying together dead, apparently at the hands of their father, her estranged husband.
Such horrors, sadly, are an all-too-common feature of the daily news, perhaps so common that our hearts can become hard and indifferent. Thankfully, at times, there are some who, as the Round Lake Beach Police Department did, bring us together, allow us to cull some comfort from each other's presence and induce us to wrap our communal arms around a neighbor who must struggle against seemingly unendurable suffering.
"Now's the time," village Mayor Scott Nickles told the crowd, "to lean on your neighbors and console one another as we begin the process of grieving together."
How sad that it can take such bone-numbing shocks to remind us of who we are as community. How fortunate that there are those who will bring us together to make use of that power.
Donne invoked us to remember that every loss, every sting of suffering any one person feels touches us all in some way. That is a useful, if not particularly comforting, observation. We take the idea an important step further, however, when we realize that, though we each must by nature experience hardship, we all have each other to help us endure it.