As we celebrate our nation’s independence this week, it’s good that we also celebrate our interdependence. Everything that we do, everything that we have, all that we are bears the fingerprints of countless others from around the world who have brought us to this moment and sustain us in it.
We tend to overlook this reality. We like to think of ourselves as independent. We dread those times when we feel dependent upon others — when we’re sick or struggling and need some sort of assistance. We’d rather do it ourselves and feel independent, even though we‘re really not.
We woke up this morning in a bed that someone else made. We showered in water that someone else delivered to our homes — which someone else also built. We put on clothes that are the work of others’ hands, ate a meal that someone else grew, harvested, shipped, inspected, and prepared. We got into cars or boarded a bus that others engineered, built, and tested for safety. We rode along roads that others designed and maintained.
Every moment reminds us of our interconnectedness. It’s at the core of our societies and our religious traditions. The touchstone prayer of Christianity refers not to my father, but our father, and asks for our daily bread, not my own bread. It’s never about “me,” but about “we" — everyone together looking out for the other.
Compassion, love, forgiveness, kindness, creativity — all the qualities that we associate with God draw us deeper into our interdependence. We can’t live those values without encountering another and experiencing Another. The more we see ourselves as independent of others — other people, other countries, other religions — the less we love. We know from experience how self-interest subverts any society, any government, any religion. We stop thinking about the common good — about the “we” — and ignore our deep, divine need for each other.
It’s fitting that we celebrate independence together, reminding us of the blessing of our interdependence. We’re thankful that we have the freedom to care for each other, the liberty to love one other.
Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.
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