by Judith Albright
Did your parents, grandparents or teachers ever tell you that “many hands make light work?” We probably all heard that at some time, but when we hit the rough spots of life it is so easy to hide behind our pride and try to go it alone. Many of us were taught to “suck it up” and not bother anyone else with our troubles. But when we are invested in “not being a bother” or are too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help or even admit we have a problem, we are like solitary birds trying to fly against a strong headwind. We end up exhausted and battered both physically and emotionally without getting very far. It goes without saying that it’s much easier to face and get through adverse circumstances when we don’t have to do it alone.
We have only to watch geese flying to see this principle in action. According to aerodynamic theorists, birds flying in a V formation are able to fly farther than a bird alone. The reason is that flying together in a formation decreases the air pressure that pushes against the birds’ wings; the effect is similar to flying in a thermal updraft. In addition, each bird in the formation creates a small area of disturbed air that lessens the amount of exertion for the bird immediately behind it. Whenever a goose leaves the formation, it immediately feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of it. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing to rest and another goose takes its place to fly point. It is an incredible example of teamwork and cooperation that makes the whole process easier for every goose in the formation. Whether we are people or geese, it pays to let others help us and take turns doing hard jobs.
Not only do geese share the workload, they also encourage each other. The birds at the end of the formation honk to urge those in front to keep up their speed. Isn’t that what we do when we cheer on runners and racers who may be growing exhausted from the exertion needed to make it to the finish line?
If a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, two geese fall out of formation and accompany him down to the ground to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either dead or able to fly again. Then they launch out on their own or with another formation until they catch up with their group.
Just like geese, having others to support us during difficult times provides many benefits. Anyone who has ever struggled with grief, losing weight, alcohol or drug addiction, a life threatening illness, or a traumatic life transition of any kind knows this to be true. People who share a common problem or issue are better able to face adversity because they are doing it together. They can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
If we have as much sense as a goose, we can allow ourselves to seek consolation and help from others and stay “in formation,” close to those who are in the best position to support and hold us up. Perhaps we can also learn from geese the value of standing by, helping and protecting each other.