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 any manner of thy friends 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.
By David Madison
John Donne wrote that no man is an island. In his poem he expressed the view that we are all linked to one another and that the loss of one person’s life was a loss for us all. He said “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” None of us is insignificant. Sometimes the connections in our lives can be far-reaching and touch many who may not realize just how important a single life can be.
Such was the case of Joel Reimer. Joel was born in 1979 and grew up in Winfield, B.C. Joel was part of a blended family and had an older half-brother, Jamie. Joel was not an exceptional young person. He was subject to the influences that entice all youth and he harbored the rebellious streak that lives in most young men.
Again like many young people, Joel struggled after leaving school to find the occupation and life that best suited him. During these early times, Joel had occasion to come to the Lake Country Food Bank for help. Again as many others have found the cost of independence is high with the demands of rent, transportation and food. Sometimes pride must take a second seat to necessity and Joel asked Phyllis MacPherson at the Food Bank for help. Phyllis extended her hand to Joel and provided what she could.
Some people can accept help from other without a second thought. Some even see the charity from others as a right or entitlement. Joel was different. He was profoundly influenced by the willingness of Phyllis and others at the Food Bank to help him and he let it be known that he intended to repay this kindness someday when he was abel to return with money in pocket.
Joel, at age 30, moved on to a good job working as a ramp attendant at an airport near Fort McMurray. He was happy with the work there and the future was looking bright. Unfortunately, during a brief Christmas vacation to the Okanagan, Joel’s life came to a tragic end.
Joel’s half-brother Jamie Smith and the other members of Joel’s family were well aware of Joel’s sense of obligation to the local Food Bank. They knew that Joel had not yet settled the debt he perceived to owe to the Food Bank and knew that Joel was deserving of a legacy that would be fitting of this young man.
At Joel’s funeral a jar was placed with a five-dollar bill inside. It was the money Joel had on him at the time of his death. Along with the jar was an appeal for contributions to the Food Bank in Joel’s memory. The response was overwhelming.
Joel’s half-brother, Jamie, works for Sysco, a major food distribution company supplying restaurants, hospitals, and institutions. These customers require a high level of quality in the products they buy. Sometimes products are damaged in transit and sometimes they may be nearing their shelf life. In all cases the products are still in excellent condition for consumption but don’t meet the quality standards set by Sysco. Jamie saw an opportunity here to further add to his brother’s legacy. He was able to redirect these products to the Lake Country Food Bank.
On a typical Wednesday a truck with the sign “Lake Country Food Assistance Society” arrives at the loading ramp of Sysco in the industrial park near the old distillery. Jamie is there to greet the volunteers from the Food Bank and he oversees the loading of one or two pallets piled high with food products. Joel’s legacy is continuing and it’s through his memory and the efforts of his family that the hand once extended to Joel is now extended to the many others who depend on the Food Bank to help them through difficult times.
John Donne wrote that when someone’s life is lost we should…”seek not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Yes the loss of a life does diminish us all but through the efforts of those who knew and loved Joel Reimer the tolling of the bell for him as been softened.