A belated Fourth of July to everyone! We here at the Spes Unica blog hope and pray you had a blessed celebration of the birth of the United States. We continue today with one of our regular contributors, Fr. Eric Schimmel, C.S.C. , who checks in for us from André House in Phoenix. He helps us reflect more deeply on the holiday we just celebrated.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was always very proud of the fact that the Declaration of Independence was signed in my home state. I used to love to read stories about the founding fathers of our country. After serving for a year and a half overseas in East Africa as a seminarian, and having the blessing of visiting a few other countries for various reasons, I do not take the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States lightly. I thank God for them, and I wish that more people enjoyed some of the liberties that we may take for granted.
To talk of a different kind of dependency, some days I struggle when I see our guests as they line up for our services putting some object in a square painted outside our building on the sidewalk to “reserve” their spot in line – even if this is technically not allowed. People line up or try to mark their spot hours ahead of time to have access to laundry, to take a shower, or to eat a meal. In the oppressive heat of Phoenix, I am not going to force someone to stand outside for hours in temps over 110 degrees to hold his/her spot in line to take a shower. Speaking of the heat, our guests also depend on us to have bottles of water to give to them to stay hydrated. (Thankfully many donors recognize this dependency and have donated the water we need.) “How can we create and maintain an environment that respects the dignity of the people here, while being fair and making sure everyone gets what they truly need?” That is a question that often lingers in my heart and mind. How can we transform such dependency on others into interdependence rather than just a dependency?
One lens that helps me is to see the truth of our interdependence as a whole. Sometimes I have found it helpful to point out to our volunteers or people in parishes I visit that our guests are like others in their dependency. For example, many guests share a type of chemical dependency very common these days, but usually not thought of in these terms because of how we use the phrase “chemical dependent.” Often this phrase is limited to those who use illicit substances or who abuse alcohol or legal drugs. But if we are honest with ourselves, when we have to take any drug to survive – heart medicine, blood pressure pills, etc. – even if we do so in the way prescribed without abusing the drug, we are dependent on those chemicals. André House is a very dependent organization too. Each day I am conscious of the way that we depend on generous benefactors and volunteers so that we have the resources that we need to serve our guests.
Not all dependency is bad. In fact, many spiritual writers have spilled a lot of ink writing about the fact that we are completely dependent on God. We even have popular sayings such as, “Let go and let God.” In the end, we are all dependent on God for the air we breathe, for the miracle that we have a planet that has the perfect atmosphere for human life, and for so many other things. The whole economic system of division of labor means that I depend on farmers to grow my food, other people to make my clothes that I buy, others to make sure the utilities I use function properly, etc. The truth that sits in my soul this Independence Day weekend is that we all really do depend on each other.