Independence is alienation. It cuts us off from others. But mere dependence, in a subtle way, is alienation too. For mere dependence is slavery; and the slave is an alien. But interdependence joins us with others through the bond of joyful give-and-take, a bond of belonging.
Dependence ties us with ties of slavery. Independence ties us with ties of illusion. But bonds of interdependence are ties that set us free. One single gift acknowledged in gratefulness has the power to dissolve the ties of our alienation, and we are home free--home where all depend on all.
The interdependence of gratefulness is truly mutual. The receiver of the gift depends on the giver. Obviously so. But the circle of gratefulness is incomplete until the giver of the gift becomes the receiver: a receiver of thanks. When we give thanks, we give something greater than the gift we received, whatever it was.
The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves. One who says "Thank you" to another really says, "We belong together." Giver and thanksgiver belong together. The bond that unites them frees them from alienation. Does our society suffer from so much alienation because we fail to cultivate gratefulness?
The moment I acknowledge the gift as a gift and so acknowledge my dependence, I am free--free to go forward into full gratefulness.
- David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer