John Donne reminded us long ago that we are all intermingled in a complex social network — even in death:
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" (from "Meditations XVII").
The so-called self-made entrepreneur, who believes that all by himself he made his fortune, is engaged in a mammoth self-delusion. America is perhaps the world’s best example of a society in which everyone is dependent on everyone else.
No matter how robust is a tycoon’s empire, he did not build the roads or rails upon which his system depends. Nor has he created the safety of the airways used by his private jets, the quality of the air he breathes, the purity of his pills, the safety of his porterhouse steak, or even the security of his nation — among hundreds of other things done by and through the government. He never even goes out his front door without being supported by a score of resources provided by someone else.
Whatever it is you have done, you have not done it by yourself.
This Thanksgiving day many of us will gather around tables filled with good things we have not produced, in homes lit by electric power we did not generate, with wine from vines we did not plant, and potatoes we did not dig. And if we are at all alert to the interdependence of life, we will be thankful.
For many of us our thanks will be offered to a providence we may call God or by a plethora of other names. However we may define and name the gracious mystery which lies outside any of our achievements, Thanksgiving day is a time when we come down from our self-created pedestals and admit that we must rely not only on a divine presence but also on one another.
"Community" defines the difference between the jungle and civilization. We all need one another. So as you gather around your festive board, take a good look at those who break bread with you. And if you can’t give thanks to the creator who is the real founder of the feast, give thanks for all those who share it with you, and for all those you never see and will never know who have made it possible.