Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. That’s why I’ve always struggled with “Independence Day.”
Patriotism can be a dangerous thing if it leads to amnesia about the dark patches of our nation’s history. And it can leave us shortsighted if our nationalism prevents us from seeing pain or hope beyond our borders.
As an American, and especially as a Christian, I am convinced that a love for our own people is not a bad thing, but love doesn’t stop at borders. Love is infinitely boundless and all about holy trespassing and offensive friendships.
We are taught to celebrate independence. But independence and individualism have come at a great price. In the wealthy and industrialized countries we have become the richest people in the world, but we also have some of the highest rates of loneliness, depression, and suicide. We are rich, sad, and lonely. We are living into patterns that not only leave much of the world hungry for bread and starved for justice but also leave us longing for the good life and for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves.
The good news is that we are not alone in the world.
This year, let’s celebrate Interdependence Day — recognizing the fact that we are part of a global neighborhood. Let’s appreciate all the invisible people in our lives, and let’s lament the fact that the human family is terribly dysfunctional.
It’s not about being anti-American but about being pro-world. It’s a beautiful thing to realize that we need each other and that we are not alone in the world. So, I’ve worked with some friends to brainstorm great ways to celebrate “Interdependence Day” this Fourth of July. Here’s what we came up with:
1. Track down old teachers and mentors. Let them know the influence they have had in your life.
2. Babysit for someone for free, especially someone that might really need a night off and not be able to afford a sitter.
3. Try to go a whole week without spending any money. If you have to, barter or beg a little to make it through.
4. Hold a baby goods exchange where parents can bring toys and clothing their kids have outgrown and trade them.
5. Attempt to repair something that is broken. Appreciate the people who repair things for you on a regular basis.
6. Look through your clothes. Learn about one of the countries where they are manufactured. Do some research to discover the working conditions and commit to doing one thing to improve the lives of people who live there.
7. Look for everything you have two of, and give one away.
8. Dig up a bucket of soil and look through it to see the elements and organisms that make our daily meals possible.
9. Spend the Fourth of July baking cookies or bread. Give them away to the person who delivers your mail or picks up your trash the next time you see him or her.
10. Host a rain-barrel party and teach neighbors how to make and use rain-barrels to recycle water.
11. Spend a day hiking in the woods. Consider how God cares for the lilies and sparrows — and you.
12. Gather some neighbors, and plant a tree in your neighborhood together.
13. Hold a knowledge exchange where you gather friends or neighbors to share skills or something they are learning.
14. Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, remember the folks who made it possible for you to eat it.
15. Become a pen-pal with someone in prison.
16. Try recycling water from the washer or sink to flush your toilet. Remember the 1.2 billion folks who don’t have clean water.
17. Leave a random tip for someone cleaning the streets or the public restroom.
18. Write one CEO every month this year. Affirm or critique the ethics of their companies. (You may need to do a little research first.) Consider starting with BP.
19. Wash your clothes by hand and dry them on a line. Remember the 1.6 billion people who do not have electricity.
20. Learn to sew. Try making your own clothes for a year.
21. Eat only a bowl of rice a day for a week (take a multi-vitamin). And remember the 25, 000 people who die of malnutrition and starvation each day.
22. Begin a scholarship fund so that for every one of your own children you send to college, you can create a scholarship for an at-risk youth. Get to know his or her family and learn from each other.
23. Visit a worship service where you will be a minority. Invite someone to dinner at your house, or have dinner with someone there if they invite you.
24. Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask forgiveness.
25. Serve in a homeless shelter. For extra credit, go back to that shelter and eat or sleep there and allow yourself to be served.
26. Go through a local thrift store and drop $1 bills in random pockets of clothing being sold.
27. Experiment in creation-care by going fuel-free for a week — bike, carpool or walk.
28. Go to an elderly home and get a list of folks who don’t get any visitors. Visit them each week and tell stories, read together, or play board games.
29. Laugh at advertisements, especially ones that teach you that you can buy happiness.
30. Go down a line of parked cars and pay for the meters that are expired. Leave a little note of niceness.
31. Connect with a group of migrant workers or farmers who grow your food. Visit their farm. Maybe even pick some veggies with them. Ask what they get paid.
32. Mow your neighbor’s grass.
33. Ask the next person who asks you for change to join you for dinner.
34. Invest money in a micro-lending bank.
35. Start setting aside 10 percent of your income to give away to folks in need.
36. Write paper letters (by hand) for a month. Try writing someone who needs encouragement or whom you should say “I’m sorry” to.
37. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.
38. Go without food for one day to remember the two billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.
Add yours to the list.
May we celebrate Interdependence Day today and everyday. It is a gift to be part of this inescapable web of mutuality.
Shane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way. He is one of the compilers of Common Prayer, a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borders which creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world. His most recent book is Red Letter Revolution, which he co-authored with Tony Campolo.
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