noun: independence
  1. the fact or state of being independent.
    synonyms: self-governmentself-rulehome ruleseparationself-determinationsovereigntyautonomyfreedomliberty

    “the struggle for national independence”
    “he valued his independence”
 Thinking on that word, independence, this morning. Yes, it’s the 4th day of July, but I’m not thinking so much of my country as I am the individual. I used to think I was a very independent person. I was an “I can take care of myself” kind of person. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case now. I’m not sure it ever really was. 
As I grow older, I understand and value the community that surrounds me. I understand that there are two communities I live with:
The Outside Community. This is the community that I live around; the people in my town and the strangers that pass by.
The Inside Community. This is the community that I choose to be close to; the family and friends that I desire an intimate connection with.
The Outside community is the network that makes society function. It’s the school bus driver that picks children up, the nurse that gives the shot, the man who picks up the garbage. Yes, I could probably manage without all these people. Surely, some people do, living off the grid and by themselves in the wilderness. They survive, but do they thrive?
The most solid benefit of the outside community, other than the day-to-day conveniences, is the response of this community in times of crisis. Locally, we saw this in action during the March floods here in Louisiana. Strangers helping strangers, neighbors helping neighbors. We’ve seen this response on every level, whether it be locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally. During fundamental times of need or crisis, the human being will help the one in need. It’s how are ancestors survived, and how we thrive today. We are better together.
The Inside community is special. It’s the people who you specifically choose to let in. To let them in to your thoughts, your needs, your goals, your successes, and even your deficiencies. Whereas the outside community helps to where you can sustain your individual contribution to society, the inside community helps to GROW your individual and spiritual self into a thriving, prosperous, and strong soul.
My inside community has grown significantly these past few years. Coworkers have turned into confidants, gym-goers have turned into inspirational partners, and fellow church members have turned from blurry figures on Sunday morning to sharpened images of dear friends.
The inside community is not just people who you are intimate with. It’s the people who don’t talk to you everyday, or even every week, but they send you a message on Facebook when you’ve had a bad day and it’s just enough to keep your head above water in that moment of desperation. It’s the people who you can walk up to and give a solid, two-armed hug (no passive side-hugs!) when you haven’t seen them in a year. It’s the people who ask, “How are you doing?”, and you can give them the honest answer, good or bad.
Both the outside and inside community are valuable and important. With our “independence” and free will, most of us will choose to be a part of these communities. Some will choose to stay in the outside, some will choose to grow their inside, but to live a full and enriched life, I believe the individual needs both.
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