Saturday, April 3, 2010

At one county fair the blue ribbon in the sled pull competition was awarded to a horse hauling 9,000 pounds. Second place came in with 8,000 pounds. Their owners were curious to see what the two horses could do together. Assuming their combined efforts would produce the total weight of 17,000 pounds, they were stunned when the team was able to drag 30,000 pounds.

The purpose of this type of competition is a mystery to me. Years ago, maybe during a drought when the farmers had extra time on their hands, one guy probably said, “I bet $5.00 my horse is stronger than yours.” Game on!

Organized competition is one thing, but why do we wrestle with this need to prove who is better, stronger, faster, smarter, wealthier or better looking. Like the farmers, we would be amazed at our combined efforts.

Geese fly in formation and when the lead guy gets tired he drops back and someone else takes over. The flapping of their wings creates supportive wind currents and the geese honk to encourage each other. In hot weather a hive of bees will take turns gathering pollen and flapping their wings to cool inside the hive. I don’t imagine they whine about having to take a longer hive cooling stint if it’s what the team needs. If creatures can understand the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, why do we struggle with it?

As harsh as it is to admit, I think underneath it all is selfishness. If we were more concerned with the greater good than recognition, clearly we would be surprised, too, at what we could accomplish. Coach Bear Bryant said, “If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-bad we did it. If anything goes real good, you did it.” If everyone kept that motto, the “stepping on others to get where you want to go” would become extinct.

When I was five years old, one of the first things I learned in Red Cross swimming lessons at the Y was, “Don’t swim alone. Always use the buddy system.” It works not only at the pool, but in a family, a marriage, business and friendships. Each of us needs a team of sorts ... everyone looking out for the best interest of everyone else. Just like the bees and geese, there is safety in numbers, but those numbers are working together.

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