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 | Lucia Silecchia

In-dependence is gratitude for the people we need

Independence is on my mind. I celebrate our nation’s birthday as “Independence Day,” recalling that time 248 years ago when our founders deemed it “necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”  

The blessing of independence is well worth celebrating!

In my own life too, I pride myself on my independence, the ability to do the things I have learned to do and the freedom to do them. 

Yet, I wonder if sometimes I value independence a little too much without remembering all the ways in which I am so very dependent on others, whether I notice it or not.

I depend on my family for that unconditional love that is the strength and the joy of life.

I depend on my friends for their companionship in the good times and the hard times along life’s journey.

I depend on all the words of wisdom and good example my parents left behind as a guide to good living.

I depend on the skill of pilots who fly planes, drivers who zip down highways, mechanics who fix trains and those who provide the food I eat and the water I drink. Lives, including mine, are in their hands.

I depend on doctors and nurses to care for me and my loved ones in time of illness, and to do so with wisdom and compassion.

I depend on those with whom I work professionally and personally to do their fair share, to tell the truth, and to do what is right and just.

I depend on all those who deliver mail, stock supermarkets, move trains and buses, keep gas and electricity flowing and, so often unnoticed and unappreciated, continue to make life move along. 

I depend on plumbers, electricians, carpenters, bricklayers and roofers who know how to do all those critically important things that, to the great relief of many, I will never attempt.

I depend on musicians, poets, artists, singers, composers, sculptors and performers of all kinds to make the world more beautiful with their insights into the human condition.

I depend on my teachers, past, present and future, to share with me their knowledge of the world. I am increasingly aware of how little I can learn in my brief time on this earth and, thus, how dependent I am on the wisdom of those who lived in the ages before me.

I depend on my pastors for the great gifts of the sacraments they celebrate, good example, wise counsel, encouragement, challenge, and friendship as they walk this path of life with my sisters and brothers and me.

This list goes on and on because there are many more on whom I depend from the time I wake up in the morning in a home I did not build, until the time I go to sleep under a blanket I did not weave.

I suppose it is when I am most inclined to rejoice in independence that it is good to pray with gratitude for all those on whom I depend.

Right now, I live at the peak of my own independence. Yet, I am also a split second away from an illness or accident that could snatch that away from me. Living with this sense of vulnerability is, I think, a good thing. 

It is also a way of reminding myself that independence is not a constant or even a norm of life. When I dwelled within my mother, I was dependent on her to care for me. In the time of my infancy, I depended on those around me to know my needs even when I could not express them. In my childhood, I depended on others to make decisions for me because I knew so little, and my juvenile judgement was not the best. I know that days may come when I will become more dependent, perhaps completely dependent, on others yet again.

All too often, I have seen those who depend on others for any reason be looked down on, treated with disrespect, and discarded in the many ways we can discard each other. Taking stock of my own dependence is but one small way to remind myself that all of us are dependent on each other — and that healthy and necessary dependence is nothing to scorn or fear.

As I reflect on the ways in which I rely on others, I am reminded once again of how much I depend on God for everything great and small. I ask him often for my “daily bread,” without always remembering that he does, in fact, provide for all the needs of ordinary time.

Lucia A. Silecchia is a professor of law and associate dean for faculty research at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. Email her at