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Thu, Aug. 05

Haddad: Nature’s lesson of teamwork, unity and the power to lift others

Courier stock photo

Courier stock photo

When I was young, a teacher gave me a three-ring binder that contained assignment projects. One of the pages in the notebook contained information about geese that must have surprised or intrigued me at the time, because I recently found that page saved among my keepsakes. As I reread it now, the message seems especially important.

The page explains that wildlife scientists have conducted extensive studies to determine why geese and other migratory birds always fly in a distinctive V formation. They found some fascinating results.

  1. When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Consequently, by flying together in a V formation, scientists estimate that the whole flock can fly about 70% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone.
  2. When a goose drops out of the V formation it quickly discovers that it requires a great deal more effort and energy to fly. Consequently, that goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from flying together.
  3. Geese rotate leadership. The goose flying in the front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind the leader. As the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates.
  4. Geese honk at each other. They also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together. Scientists speculate that this honking is their way of communicating with each other during their long flight.
  5. Geese help each other. Scientists also discovered that when one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies.

Like many of you, I am disheartened by what seems to be a growing spirit of divisiveness in parts of our society. When people work together harmoniously in teams, sharing common values and a common destination, they all arrive at the destination quicker and easier, because they are lifted up by the energy and enthusiasm of one another.

Aesop, the Ancient Greek fabulist would use sticks to illustrate this principle. He would hold up one stick and ask a listener in his audience to break it, which could easily be done. Then he would hold up two sticks and repeat the process until the little bundle of sticks could not be broken, no matter how hard his student tried. He taught, “Alone, we are weak and easily broken, but together, we are strong.”

In the many years that I have lived in Yavapai County I’ve come to know that there are hundreds of community members actively engaged in lifting the flock.

Just last week, the Courier reported on local resident Gail Holleman who gifted a van equipped with a handicap lift to the Ayala family who was seeking such a vehicle to help transport their wheelchair-bound 9-year-old.

We also recently reported on Ann Wilson, who started volunteering to help local families in need of food back in 1992. She never dreamed that all these years later she and her husband Bob would be running our countywide food bank. Ann is 85 and Bob is 87. No doubt, they learned the value of flying in formation many years ago.

Fortunately, in our community we have many more examples of residents coming together to not only help each other, but also include those who don’t feel like part of anyone’s formation. Thank you for the lifting power you share.

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