I’m no longer at home- now I’m in Vermont on a farm in the Green Mountains. Most people in America are getting ready for a traditional 4th of July celebration, but here, we celebrate with a different kind of holiday: Interdependence Day.
Interdependence is our relationship and connection between people, our mutual dependence on each other. Can you have interdependence without independence? Recently I’ve been doing some thinking about the difference between them.
Gaining independence and freedom means you have achieved power (hopefully without too much conflict). Usually there is difficulty negotiating this shift, this transfer of power between nations or tribes or people. Independence is hard won, and not casually given up.
One of my favorite book series of all time, “Little House on the Prairie,” epitomizes the American perspective of independence. The Ingalls family struggles to keep their farm and live off the land without any kind of outside support. They tough it out through droughts, blizzards, capricious harvests and a plague of grasshoppers, and in the end they lead fulfilling lives. The take away message is that on your own, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, anyone can achieve success.
I consider myself a pretty independent person- I prefer working by myself on projects and am quite content to spend time alone. But over the past couple of years, I’ve changed my tune. Through my work with my project, Jungleheroes, I’ve been able to meet so many kids seeking connection who share my goals to make positive change.
At the Just Peace Summit I attended in April, I had the privilege to find support and community with other passionate youth leaders. At the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, I was able to compete with and learn from some of the most intelligent and innovative students in the world. So many overlapping layers of people offering up their work in the hope of taking another step forward.
Although I love being independent, I try to avoid the arrogance of independence because I *don’t* have all the answers and I *do* need other people’s help. Experiences such as these, with other incredibly independent people, have helped me see this.
I want to be strong and capable. I want be responsible for myself and have the freedom to make my own decisions. But I also want to connect with others, to reach out, to be in a community of people who are helping one another. And that is the essence of interdependence.
If independence is standing alone through good and bad times, then interdependence is standing together with people you trust and support. So this 4th of July, I encourage you to light a sparkler and celebrate not only for our freedom and strength, but also how you can become more connected to others.