Thursday, July 4, 2013

Declaration of Interdependence

If I were really creative, I'd use the structure of Declaration of Independence to rewrite a Declaration of Interdependence. I'm not feeling it right now.

I am feeling a need to write about interdependence today, not independence. I find that when my own gravitation towards independence becomes too strong, I get lonely. It's a defense mechanism more than anything else.

In a month I leave to work with Christian Peacemaker Teams for three months. I have found that life gets busier as I near a departure like this. The people I've been meaning to see for far too long I finally make plans with. The tasks I've been putting off I (try to) do. Then there's fundraising, packing, finding a home for my cats. Mental preparation. Spiritual preparation.

It is during these times that I am especially aware of just how much I need other people. My fundraising efforts would fall flat without the generous support of friends. My mental and spiritual preparation would be disastrous without friends and family to listen and talk through the thoughts and feelings buzzing around. The notes and affirmations I receive, the "I am praying for you", "thank you for what you're doing" (that I never really feel I'm worthy of), the "good luck" comments: without these, I know I'd be lost, deflated, scared. With them, I move towards feeling centered, grounded, calm.

It is during these times that I become more convinced that it is just during these times that I need other people. It's all times.

Original photo here
One of the beautiful things about working at JustFaith Ministries this summer is our daily community prayer.  Recently, it seems many of our prayers have focused on interdependence. A few days ago, we heard a beautiful piece by Elaine Prevallet about our interwoven lives, not just human life with human life, but all life with all life. One image that I remember was that of redwood trees. I learned that a single redwood cannot survive on its own. Towering redwoods have shallow root systems that cannot support the majesty above.  However, in a forest of redwoods, the root systems intertwine and tangle, giving strength to one another through their tangling.

We, too, need to be intertwined and tangled to thrive. We are not meant to be independent, standing solo, with no one around to keep us grounded.

We all need support. We rely on it more than many of us recognize. A couple months ago, I was listening to an interview on NPR about favoritism in the work place. Nancy DiTomaso discussed how many of us rely heavily on the connections we have to get jobs. In fact, after interviewing hundreds of people, all but two people said they'd gotten 70% of their jobs through personal connections - friends, family members, others who had an inside track. However, those same people rarely cited the connections as major reasons for them living the life they lived. Instead, they talked about their hard work, motivation, and education. She didn't question whether they were, in fact, hard-working, motivated, or well-educated, but did note that other equally hard-working, motivated, well-educated people couldn't get a foot in the door, not because of lack of qualifications, but lack of connections. A point DiTomaso was making was that this favoritism is a factor in higher minority unemployment rates. But that is a story for another day.

Hearing the interview caused me to consider my own work history. All but one of my jobs - from summer jobs in high school and college to teaching jobs - have come to me through my connections. I hadn't ever thought about it before. It is startling. And I am grateful.

To be connected. To be interdependent. To, I hope, use the sustenance I have received through intertwining my roots with others' roots, to extend my own root system out further so that I reach and support someone who may need a few more tangles to stay upright.

Yesterday I was prayer leader at work and, as I prepared for my turn, I came across a This I Believe essay by Eve Birch. She writes about the Art of Being a Neighbor, and explains how her vision of the American Dream used to be "a job, a mortgage, cable, credit, warranties, success." Through her experiences of becoming homeless and living in a shack in a hollow of West Virginia for several years, her idea of the American Dream transformed to "a shared one.  It's not so much about what I can get for myself; it's about how we can all get by together."

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are - must be, thrive by being - interdependent. So on this day as we celebrate our country's independence, let us remember that the path to the making of our country, past, present, and future - and the path to making our own lives rich - is not a path of one person walking alone.  It is a path of interdependence, root tangling: messy, blessed, and beautiful.

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