"Whatever Affects One Directly, Affects All Indirectly"
Martin Luther King Jr. eats a meal at home with his family in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama
In 2022, we are well familiar with the concept of interconnectedness. Most of us have been walking around with a super communication device in our pocket for years – a phone that not only connects us to each other, but that gives us access to the endless exchange of information that is the world wide web. We're so plugged in, we have to be reminded to turn away from our screens and take care of ourselves!
Yet how many of us really stop to contemplate the extent of our connection to one another? Covid-19 was a wakeup call. When it first swept around the world in 2020, we were stunned by it. It made the true meaning of "globalization" more real and personal than ever before as we watched a single virus spread person-to-person and country-to-country. Then the supply chain issues started and yet another layer of our dependence on one another was revealed. Not only did we miss our loved ones who were either sick or hiding from sickness, but we missed the material comforts that were suddenly unable to reach us. Especially the most basic ones – remember those empty shelves at the grocery store? And it's still happening today, two years later.
Food is a poignant example of our global interconnectedness. As someone who runs a food business and who is concerned about the environment, I do often think about how my actions ripple out into the world. Where I choose to source my ingredients from, how I produce my products and the waste I create while doing so all effect the greater world around me.
Today is Martin Luther King Day, and I'm thinking a lot about one particular speech he gave to his own Baptist congregation in 1967, today known as his "Christmas Sermon on Peace". It was delivered only a few months before he was sadly taken from this world. In it he imparted this wisdom:
"It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.
Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent upon most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific Islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning and that is poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese.
Or maybe you desire to have cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.
This is the way our universe is structured. It is its interrelated quality.
We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality."
Never has this message been more relevant than today!
I think the best way for us to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is to read his words and take them to heart. Next time you sit down to eat a meal, take a moment to think about the people who put it there. Think about the journey each ingredient had to take to reach your plate. Think about the hands, feet, wheels, ships and planes that carried it to you – from distant farmers in foreign lands to the check-out person at the grocery store.
Then enjoy that meal with gratitude and a deeper appreciation of your place in the web of life. We may never fully grasp it, but we can certainly try to and become better for it.