What we can learn from nature about changing systems

Often one receives more than one gives. This past weekend I was privileged to share some thoughts with Vincentians of the Eastern Region of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The theme of their meeting was “Stronger Together”. Obviously “stronger together” is a key concept for systemic change.

I found a special gift in the closing prayer for the meeting. See if you think it has lessons for those concerned about changing systems.

The Prayer

Leader: As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following. Flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if the bird flew alone.

All: The Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they’re going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Leader:   Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly 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 immediately in front.

All: The Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go and will be willing to accept their help as well as to give ours to the others.

Leader: When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation, and another goose flies at the point position.

All: The Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing the leadership. If we have as much sense as a goose, we will remember that we are indeed inter-dependent on each other.

Leader: The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

All: The Lesson: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging.

Leader: When a goose gets sick or wounded or is shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own with another formation, or they catch up with the flock.

All: The Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we too will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong.

Together: Lord, we ask you to give us the grace:

To have a common direction and sense of community. To stay with those who are headed where we want to go. To be willing to accept help, as well as give help.

To take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. To make sure our honking from behind is encouraging.

To stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong. And to have as much sense as a goose. Amen

P.S. Various versions of the prayer are all over the web. There are even some really fine video versions.

 


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