This week in the U.S. we celebrate Independence Day, commemorating that day in 1776 when we became the United States of America. Of course, the birth of a nation does not happen on it’s own, so this year I propose we celebrate Interdependence Day!
Everything we do, all our actions, every decision we make impacts those around us. That is an absolute truth, a fact that cannot be changed, and has transcended all time and place. Yet, for many who live in this country, the word independence has become synonymous with freedom. In fact, a recent Pew Research survey found that an increasing number of people mention independence as a source of meaning in life.
When we are born, we are dependent on others. As we grow, we are encouraged to be independent. Interdependence is often left out of the equation, but really that’s where our strength lies.
I’ve talked about interdependence and community a number of times before, in “Reflections on Connectedness” and “I Am, Because You Are” for example. It’s sort of a “thing” for me. I’ve mentioned more than once the correlation between community and a long, healthy life. Simply put, we need each other.
Think for a moment of your most important relationships. Interdependence is at play in the healthiest of those relationships. Each brings different strengths and support each other in their weaknesses. In my marriage, I’m the cook because I enjoy the creativity and so I’m pretty good at it. I don’t enjoy the cleanup so that usually falls on my husband, which he does without complaint. He, on the other hand, is the “fixologist.” He loves to build things and solve problems and spent most of his professional life doing so. I know it sounds like traditional roles, and it works for us, it’s how we get things done. In an unhealthy marriage, duties are often lopsided, with one person taking on the bulk of the work. I speak with experience when I say, this does not work.
As much as I would love to see a world where we happily depend on each other, I’m not naïve enough to think this will happen any time soon. So, let’s just start with what you can do to celebrate Interdependence Day everyday:
Take a few moments to offer your gratitude to all the different people that are involved in bringing food to your table. The farmer, the farm worker, the equipment manufacturer, the truck driver, the grocery store employees or the staff at your favorite restaurant, I could go on and on – you get the idea.
Reflect on all those that came before you who made it possible to celebrate Independence Day.
Spend time in nature, marveling at the interdependence of all living things. Just the act of breathing is an act of interdependence – the plants and trees breathe in our carbon dioxide and return it to us in the form of oxygen.
Reach out to a friend or neighbor that needs some support.
Write a letter of thanks to someone that has helped you.
The idea of Interdependence Day is gaining in popularity. There are numerous books, articles, podcasts and even movies about the subject. Fred Rogers had it right in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and we need more children’s programming like that. Look for ways your life is enriched by interdependence with others.
As you make your own plans for Interdependence Day this week, I want to leave you with this simple yet spot on poem by Janet Wong, entitled Liberty:
I pledge acceptance
Of the views,
That make us America
To listen, to look,
To think, and to learn
Sharing the Earth