“. . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds . . .”
- Matthew 5:16
Some referred to him as the “Snake Man,” this mysterious man who would appear on rare occasions in the rural northwest Texas community where I grew up as a kid, who rode into town on a silver bicycle, wearing bib overalls with a backpack slung over his back. He only came to town, I suppose, to stock up on basic provisions, after which he could be seen peddling his bike out along the edge of the highway toward wherever he lived. Some speculated he dwelled in a cave or a tent out in the countryside somewhere. Maybe he was nomadic, I’m not sure. Another rumor was that his livelihood came from catching rattlesnakes and selling them for the venom, and that he had been snakebit so many times that he developed an immunity, thus he became known by some as the “Snake Man.” A mysterious fellow for sure, but whether any of that is true I don’t know.
It was John Donne, the seventeenth century English scholar, poet, and preacher who wrote the well-known phrase in one of his meditations that “no man is an island”. While that may be true, the Snake Man came as close to being an island as anyone I have ever known. Yet, even he, this hermit-like person living alone out in the wilderness who I never spoke to nor whose real name I ever knew, had an influence on my life, however subtle it may have been; for his lifestyle, true or speculation, inspired a sense of adventure in me which I have never forgotten, as I fantasized about the freedom of living out in the wild – except for the rattlesnakes, which usually snapped me back into reality.
“No man is an island,” for our actions inevitably touch the lives of others, especially those close to us – family, friends, and those we encounter on a regular basis – but also those off in a distance who we have no idea are paying attention, like me with the Snake Man. Did he have any idea some young kid was watching? I doubt it.
Indeed, the decisions we make and the actions we take inevitably spill over into the lives of others – whether good or evil. It is a responsibility we can view in one of two ways, either a burden or an opportunity. Is it a burden that no matter our efforts to withdraw from society, no person can be an island? Or do we see it as an opportunity, an opportunity to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works?”