We Do Not Live Alone

John Davis Drummey - Boston, Massachusetts
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, January 1, 2010
John Davis Drummey

In his essay from the 1950s, business executive and disabled veteran John Davis Drummey believes life can be more fully lived once we overcome our own self-centeredness. Drummey says the more people we understand, the better we can know God.

Age Group: 30 - 50
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To sum up my credo in a sentence: The farther away I get from myself, the nearer I get to God. Most of my troubles came when I was obsessed with my own petty concerns and trivial details. I respect the hermit but admire the crusader—his life takes more of courage. I sympathize with the introvert as I would with the sickly, but both are missing a lot of life.

As a Catholic, I am touched by Assisi and his animals, but Loyola and his army fascinate me. No man ever got as much out of life as G. K. Chesterton, and he remarked, “Here dies another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands, and the great world around me. And with tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?”

Today’s young people live years in what used to be days. I might be a good example. I’ve been married six years, have two children, a home, and have been recently honored by my college, the Jewish community, and the Chamber of Commerce. I direct the region of a famous human-relations agency. I’ve had much sickness, been in a war, worked at a newspaper, traveled all over America and half the world, graduated from college, ran my own ad business, worked three years as an executive for General Electric, lost two brothers in a family, and spent a year in a tuberculosis sanatorium.

Now I could go on in this personal basis, but the point is I’ve just reached the 30 mark. Many of these experiences would be denied in the past age. I’ve found that the beliefs I’ve discovered in the 20- to 30-year period can be the ground floor of my philosophy, and that these early years can be a fruitful basis for a mature life for everyone. I remember in particular two young men named Jefferson and Hamilton, whose thoughts are deeply embedded in this country’s philosophy.

I like people because they are the key to the great human values: love, charity, friendship, sacrifice, and brotherhood. Some of my closest friends are people whom I was at first hesitant to meet. What close calls. I feel sorry for those poor souls who must go through life not knowing their neighbors, not participating in groups or being active in causes, and when I meet persons who are not interested in people who are different—and of course, that’s everyone. Then I rededicate myself to this thing called society—a continuous living drama equal to anything Hollywood ever produced. I believe the more people you understand, the more you understand God.

I have had in my short life a multitude of illnesses, close calls, disappointments, sufferings, and personal crosses. But I honestly think I could have survived them better, and perhaps avoided some of them altogether, if I’d gotten away from an obsession with myself. This philosophy is not startling for its originality nor for its maturity. It is not the whole faith I have, for in this short space I omitted the necessities of religion, introspection, study, family, and the other fundamentals which are done without the crowd.

But my main point is that we do not live alone in this contracting globe unless the belief in belonging to the human race is most important now, with bomb tensions, rabid nationalism, and rampant suspicion. And when I see a hard-bitten lawyer happily planning an outing for blind children; when I watch men of great prestige and wealth put their efforts into brotherhood; when I observe men and women begin to grow out of their own little tiny shells by going into the world and maturing by knowing other peoples, other greater sorrows, other new shared joys; then I know that this is worth believing in.

John Davis “Jack” Drummey had a long career in advertising and public relations despite being a disabled veteran of World War II. He was also a cartoonist for several publications, and wrote “The Observant Bostonian” column for Boston magazine for many years.

Homepage illustration by Mike Baird via Flickr. Essayist photo courtesy of Carol Drummey.