Man as an island – two very different perspectives

NIAGARA, Wis. — In 1969 I was a college freshman. I had looked forward to going to college; the preparation for it and the anticipation of it had kept me going through my senior year of high school. I had envisioned myself sitting in the college pub, walking through campus to the student union, attending classes, joining a sorority and even studying in the college library.

I had spent two of my summers working there and knew every nook and cranny and where the quietest study carols were located. I know… these are not the typical daydreams of a high school student, but I always was rather “bookish.” Along with those daydreams, came the more typical impatience over leaving home. I could not wait. Even though the freshman girls’ dormitory was just up the hill from my house, it felt a world away. And, for so many reasons both big and small, it was.

I still remember “move in day” when all of the freshmen descended upon campus — their home away from home for the next four years and the gateway to their future. The location was as familiar to me as my own backyard — it practically was after all, but the actual experience I was soon to learn was going to be anything but familiar.

The day I moved into my room on the third floor of Wright Hall, the popular songs of the times were blaring from every open dorm window. They reflected the unrest and feelings of alienation that were hallmarks of the ’60s and early ’60s. Simon and Garfunkel were at their peak of popularity. On that particular day, their latest hit, “I am A Rock” blared the loudest. I still remember the lyrics, “I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none can penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock; I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries.”

Whew! That is one very heavy song to be playing on what should have been a day of excitement and anticipation. But the lyrics reflected the feelings of loneliness and the pangs of homesickness that were already setting in for many who had a much bigger adjustment to make than I did. After all, I was going to college in my hometown. When I needed to go visit my mom, I walked down the hill to our house or up the hill to her office. She was always there and ready to listen to the problem of the day or the worry of the hour, whichever the case may be.

And that song reflected the times. It was Simon and Garfunkel’s ode to the late ’60s and a nation very much divided. The Vietnam war was raging, and its divisiveness separated families both physically and ideologically. Watergate had created a scandal unlike anything in the country’s recent memory. It was the first time I ever remembered a president lying to us, and it was pretty disillusioning. There were antiwar demonstrations across the country, and race riots in the streets. The country was divided, and its citizens were feeling alienated from each other rather than united over any common goal.

But I was young and idealistic. I had my whole life ahead of me. I trusted that everything would eventually get better, and I focused my attention on my narrow goals and the steps I needed to take to achieve them. That narrow focus prevented me from seeing the broader picture and appreciating the historical time through which I was passing. I was on an island of my own making, an island that both isolated me and protected me from issues beyond my ability to understand let alone to affect change.

Then I graduated, and the rest of my life happened. With marriage came children and jobs and moves from one community to another before finally putting down roots. Each decade had its challenges. With maturity and added responsibilities came a broader view, changing priorities, and a deeper understanding. I paid greater attention to a variety of historical shifts.

As I aged — as we all age — an appreciation for the “pendulum swing” develops. We see how history repeats itself. Each decade lived prepares us for the one to come; today’s troubling events become our teachers, and we gradually learn what to expect. We develop hindsight, and we come to understand that we can get through this time because we managed our way through the last time.

Different perspectives emerge and with them come different appreciations and different attitudes. Simon and Garfunkel spoke my language when I was 18. At 69 and counting, I recently read a poem by John Donne. His words speak to me these days when he says, “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.”

I have learned that I am responsible for so much more than myself and my own immediate family. Most of us acquire this knowledge as we attain the wisdom of our advancing years. Our experience has taught us that when we help each other and look beyond our own individual needs, life gets easier for everyone.

The COVID pandemic has taught us that all of our efforts are needed to pull through this crisis. I am very heartened when I see reports of humanitarian initiatives on the nightly news. Healthcare workers and teachers are being appreciated for the heroes they are. Neighbors man food distribution lines. We wash our hands, wear our masks, keep our distance, and get vaccinated not to simply protect ourselves, but to protect our fellowman. In this respect, hard times make us better people.

I have learned as we have all learned. There is nothing more painful than a rock nor more sorrowful than an island. And I am, indeed, my brother’s keeper.



The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities that residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they reopen, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers that are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed.


Alpha-Mastodon Center


Amasa Center


The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chop suey, rice, Oriental vegetables, lettuce salad

Wednesday: Meat loaf, baked potato, corn, broccoli-cauliflower salad

Thursday: Chili, cheese, bean salad, corn muffins

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert

Breen Center


Call for home delivery or for a to go box. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chicken stir fry, rice

Tuesday: Spaghetti, garlic bread, green beans

Wednesday: Pork chops, baked potatoes, mixed vegetables

Thursday: Baked fish, potato wedges, baked beans

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain


Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Salisbury steak, rice, peas

Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs, corn, garlic bread

Wednesday: Creamy chicken soup, side salad with dressing, biscuit

Thursday: Tater tot casserole, carrots, applesauce

Friday: Fish sticks, macaroni and cheese, cauliflower

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice, or no beverage

For more information, call Christine McMahon at (906) 774-2256

Felch Center


Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Beef stroganoff, noodles, broccoli

Tuesday: Chicken cordon bleu casserole, green beans

Wednesday: Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, California blend vegetables

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Sloppy Joes, western beans, sweet potato puffs, fruit

Tuesday: Chicken rice soup with vegetables, biscuits, dark green salad, fruit

Wednesday: Sub sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and onion, pasta salad, bread pudding with fruit

Thursday: Meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli, fruit, birthday cake

Friday: Creamy tomato soup, tuna salad on a croissant, dark green side salad, fruit

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk

Fence Center/Town Hall


For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Iron River Center


Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week –

Monday: Biscuits and gravy, home fries, peas, fruit and milk

Tuesday: Chicken salad, noodles, pickle spear, baked beans, fruit and milk

Wednesday: Beef cheese burrito, refried beans, Mexicorn, fruit and milk

Thursday: Pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, cauliflower, fruit and milk

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone


The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick-up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Biscuit, sausage and gravy, baked potato, peas, fruit, juice, dessert

Tuesday: Pork chops, mashed potato and gravy, capri blend vegetables, fruit, juice, dessert

Wednesday: Stuffed cabbage casserole, glazed carrots, fruit, juice, dessert

Thursday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, spinach, fruit, juice, dessert

Sagola Center


Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Scalloped potatoes with ham, carrots

Wednesday: Cheese manicotti, broccoli

Thursday: Turkey and cheese sandwich, chips, coleslaw

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today