ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

UNITED WE STAND

You can learn a lot from a horse.

Well, OK maybe not a lot. I mean, I'm not suggesting any thing Mr. Ed-ish here. No therapeutic thoroughbreds. No psychics in saddles. A horse is a horse.

Of course? Of course.

Still, there are things we can learn from horses. For example, I heard recently about a Canadian competition in which huge Clydesdale work horses are hitched to a special sled that allows weights to be added to measure the horse's strength. During one such competition recently, the winning horse pulled about 8,000 pounds, while the second-place finisher pulled 7,000 pounds.

Hey, there's a reason we use the phrase "strong as a horse."

The competition also includes a team pulling event, and it turned out that during this year's competition one of the teams consisted of the first- and second-place finishers from the individual pulling event. So it stands to reason that if you put them together, they should be able to pull about... wait a second... these are big numbers... using ALL my fingers and toes here... about 15,000 pounds, give or take a kilogram. Right?

Wrong.

Evidently, when the two horses were hitched together, they managed to pull a sled weighing some 33,000 pounds more than double the total amount they were able to pull individually.

I'm sure there's some scientific principle that comes into play here -- equestrian synergism, perhaps? -- or some complex mathematical equation that would explain how such a thing happens. But that would doubtless require brilliant insight, thoughtful consideration and at least two teenagers' worth of computer know-how, and you know perfectly well you're not going to get any of that here.

I prefer the explanation of an ancient teacher named Aesop (and no, he wasn't MY teacher -- he was a little before my time, and I'm pretty sure he went to a different high school). This wise philosopher would use sticks to illustrate the point. He would hold up one stick and ask one of his listeners to break it which could be easily done. Then he would hold up two sticks, and repeat the process. Then three, and so on until the little bundle of sticks couldn't be broken, no matter how hard his listener tried.

"Alone, we are weak and easily broken," Aesop would explain. "But together, we are strong."

Abraham Lincoln tried to teach the same concept to a nation coming apart at the seams. "United we stand," said he, "divided we fall."

Or was it the 5th Dimension that said that? I always get them confused.

In any case, it's a significant concept for families, communities, church congregations, businesses and nations. No matter how strong we may be individually, our strength is multiplied exponentially when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm with others.

But don't take my word for it. Go right to the source.

Ask a horse.


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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.