Even under “usual” circumstances or a “typical” year – which no one would argue that this one is – the Fourth of July is distinguished in several ways from other holidays that we Americans share. For one thing, it is, after all, one of the few purely American celebrations; for another, we are accustomed to referring to it not by its official name, but rather by the date on which it is always observed.
That may seem a frivolous point to raise, but we believe it may hint at an underlying supposition that is worth contemplating. If you ask people what this holiday is all about, you are likely to get a variety of responses. Some will probably refer more to the typical activities associated with the day – like Fourth of July picnics and fireworks – than on the significance of the day itself. Another popular response more relevant to the actual question is that this holiday is about freedom, the freedom we enjoy, and enjoy celebrating, in America. That’s close, but the official name of the holiday is neither the Fourth of July nor Freedom Day. Freedom and independence are certainly closely associated, but the terms are not synonymous.
As we approach this unusual Independence Day, we at NFESH think it appropriate to give some particular attention to independence in the context of COVID-19. Some of you may be anticipating that we are going to focus on the impact of corona on seniors across this land, who were urged from the very beginning to self-quarantine because of the threat that the virus could be to them simply because of their age. Well, yes, that’s right; and there we have mentioned it. In addition, as the virus has remained in our midst that isolation has continued to fritter away at the self-sufficiency of those elders who chose to quarantine. Many of their peers who resided in nursing homes and other residential facilities had no choice about the matter, and for weeks the news media carried heart-wrenching photographs of spouses of decades being forced to connect through a closed window. By now, that situation has become the “new normal” to use the current vernacular so those images rarely still appear.
Those situations are of concern to us, as they should be, and there are few of us who haven’t experienced some negative consequences of the COVID era. But at this Independence Day, we want to pause for a moment to reflect not on those few elements of independence that we have lost in this pandemic but on what we see as gain. That is the word interdependence and the benefits that flow so naturally and bountifully from it.
As an antihunger organization we have kept our attention on the relationship of the spread of the coronavirus and the growth of hunger in America. That part has been tragic. But what we have seen emerge almost organically is the manner in which hundreds of thousands of individuals and organizations across this land have come forward to address that part of the crisis. Institutions, neighborhoods and individuals have shared their resources and worked creatively and tirelessly to make sure that others have something to eat. It’s heartening and we think it just may define more loudly and more honestly than we might have imagined just who we, as Americans, are. And can be.
Happy Interdependence Day.