All men are interdependent. Every nation is an heir of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations have contributed. Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally “in the red.” We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women…Before we leave for our jobs we are already beholden to more than half of the world. ~ Martin Luther King Jr. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
I began writing this at my dining room table earlier this week on yet another snow day in Boston. Kids were home from school. Public transit was not only stalled but broken down. Though plow drivers were trying to keep up, our neighbor came out in his little Bobcat, now and then, scooping up what he could of the snow and hauling it to the park where the pile may last till spring.
A cardinal showed up again and again on the pile of whiteness outside my window. He was a bright ball of red, fluffing out his feathers against the snow and wind. His food was the purple-black freeze-dried berries drooping in clusters from a giant pokeweed we had let grow into its fullness. The cardinal has our laziness to thank for this meal.
The snow fell and fell and fell. I considered putting on my warm clothes to dig out the sidewalk and maybe even my car. But I lingered and thought about gratitude I feel for everyone and everything – living and dead – that supports my living. I have wealth beyond knowing. Much of it is privilege: benefits and immunities granted to me and not to others because I am white, U.S. Canadian, English-speaking, formally educated, employed, able-bodied…the list goes on and with it the debt piles up.
When I did get out the next day to dig out, much of the work had already been done. Neighbors, including the Bobcat owner, had heaved and pushed and scraped so much there was only minor work left.
My pantry is stocked with food I have not sown, tended or harvested. I have water, heat, power. The internet connects me to a huge wider world through systems created and maintained by people I have never met. I have inherited a world full of wisdom, wit and warmth. There is beauty and kindness all around. And LOVE. Of family, friends, colleagues and community. So much love! Surely, nothing I give up, give back, give out, give over can ever repay this eternal debt!
Annie Lammott says there are only four prayers: “Thanks!” “Help!” “Wow!” and “Sorry!”
I need all four. All. The. Time.
image credit: Interdependence – sculpture by Martin Hill