Happy Interdependence Days
- By Camerin Courtney Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 6 Jun
To say we, as a culture, value independence is a gross understatement. If you're like me, you started chanting "I'll do it myself" (the official independence mantra) when you were two, and have continued ever since.
I admit I've done my share of self-congratulating over the years for solo accomplishments big and small—when I landed a job, navigated nearby Chicago, found a new apartment, wrote a book, and mustered the nerve to kill a cockroach on my own (a big accomplishment for the bug-squeamish like myself). Just the other day I admired the handiwork of a single female friend of mine who put her air conditioning units in her second-story apartment windows all by herself. And I may have launched into a chorus of "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" when I recently unclogged my toilet without any help. WooHoo!
But over the years I've learned a lesson far more valuable than the joy of fending for myself: Independence can be a bit lonely and tiring and, dare I say, overrated. When I change my burnt-out tail-light alone, there's no one to take out for dinner as a thank-you for helping me out—as I did with my friends John and Jon when they recently helped me transport the couch I bought from my friend Margaret from her place to mine. And the first time I schlepped a full load of groceries (three trips to the car) up the stairs to my third-story apartment it was an invigorating accomplishment. The 158th time, it was simply exhausting.
With these new realizations dawning, when my parents offered to help me get settled in my current home when I first moved in, I happily took them up on their offer. My folks, bless their hearts, drove ten hours with an air conditioner unit they weren't currently using in their trunk and my dad's drill ready to help me put pictures on my plaster walls. Years ago I would have been uncomfortable with this much help. I would've wanted to do it myself in order to prove that, well, that I could do it all myself. That much assistance would've tromped on my independent nature. But the older and wiser me simply thanked them profusely and took them out to dinner at a nice restaurant in my new neighborhood to underscore my gratitude.
As single people, I think it's especially easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can get by just fine in this life on our own, thank you very much. We don't need anyone or their silly help. If asking for assistance is something we simply don't do as competent human beings in modern-day America, then we certainly don't do it in its fast-growing suburb of Singlesville.
But when I've gotten really honest with myself, I've realized the times I've bucked at my parents', coworkers', or friends' offers of help in the past have been more about pride than independence. As a single person, without all the usual "props" of adulthood (i.e. a spouse, some kids, an SUV), it's easy to feel as though people don't see us as grown-ups yet. Okay yes, sometimes they don't. And in those instances, more than anything I've wanted to prove them wrong. But when I've stopped and taken a look around, more often than not I've realized the only person I've been proving my adulthood to is me. And much of the time all I've ended up proving is how much like a two year old I could act—and how tired, bruised, or poor I could get going it alone.
So the new enlightened me has started asking for help when I've needed it—like when I bought a laptop computer. My coworker Tim lent me his techie skills when I went shopping for this important accessory. Good thing too, because otherwise I'd still be in some aisle in Best Buy trying to make sense of gigabytes and RAM and a bunch of other words that are Greek to me. Another friend named Tim came and removed my old couch before John and Jon helped me move in the new one (oddly, my male friends seem to come in name pairs!). I've also started allowing and asking for prayer and accountability when faced with deeper, less tangible needs.
On the flip side, I love it when others ask me for assistance—for example, when Tim's wife calls needing a brief coffee break away from their twin one-year-old daughers. And when a friend of mine went through a tough spot in her marriage last year, my singleness afforded me the flexibility to meet with her on a moment's notice when she just needed to get away for a bit. Realizing what a blessing it can be to help others has made it easier for me to swallow my pride and ask for assistance—allowing others to use their God-given talents and allowing all of us to function as the body of Christ (
The thing I've learned is this: Single or married, rich or poor, we all need each other. None of us is equipped to get through this broken, bruising world on our own. We all need others to schlep, grieve, celebrate, pray, transport, nurse, teach, financially support, keep us accountable, and so much more. There are times we singles are the most acutely aware of this. And, when you think about it, how cool is God to have designed us this way—needy. It keeps us humble, it keeps us in community, and, if we allow it, it keeps us reliant on him, the one from whom it's sometimes the most easy to become independent and yet the one we need the most. If we live it right, I suspect this single life could teach us invaluable lessons and amazing insights about our interdependence with others and our utter dependence on God. Now that would be something worthy of fireworks!
Camerin welcomes your feedback and brainstorms at: SinglesNewsletter@ChristianityToday.com