I love the changes fall brings in the northeastern United States. It’s as if God brings out His huge brush and paints majestic jewel tones in broad strokes all over the deciduous trees. From my sunroom, I can look out and see mountainsides covered in brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges. The bright orange of pumpkins in the farmers’ fields and on almost every stoop contrasts with the brown and rustling dry stalks of corn in the next field. The changing of the scenery is just gorgeous!
But there are other signs of change, too. As I walked my daughter to the end of our driveway to catch the school bus this morning, I heard the distinctive honking of Canadian geese flying overhead. As I looked up, I could see a larger group in front, struggling to maintain their V formation, a group of three tagging along behind, and two more lagging way behind. As I watched the scene play out overhead, the group of three sped up to catch up with the larger flock. As they reached the larger group, all the geese settled into different spots and reformed a modified V shape with one side of the V being longer than the other. Then I turned my gaze to the last two geese lagging farther behind. They had a lot of ground to catch up to reach the larger flock which was not stopping to allow them to rejoin the group. But in short order their frenetic wing flapping allowed them to catch up and again, the entire flock reorganized in a seamlessly choreographed dance of jostling for position as the V continued flying south to warmer temperatures for the winter.
Meandering back to the house to begin my day I reflected on the geese. I remembered there was a practical reason for the V formation…something about greater lift and less air resistance…so I went to all-knowing Google and looked it up. When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Scientists estimate that an entire flock can fly 70% farther with the same amount of energy then if each goose flew alone. That’s amazing! When a goose drops out of the V formation, it quickly realizes that it requires a whole lot more effort and energy to fly. More flaps per minute, you know? I saw that as I watched the smaller group and pair of geese try and catch up with the flock. They were flapping their little geese hearts out! They missed not only the safety and comradery of their flock, but also the greater effectiveness in flying they all produce together.
I also learned that geese never give up on one another. If one is shot or ill, and drops out of formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and stay with the fallen one until it recuperates or dies. Perhaps that is what the pair of geese I saw were doing…returning to the flock after caring for a fallen flock-mate. And as they were carrying out their flying maneuvers, they were constantly in communication…the honking I heard that drew my attention to them in the first place. Compassion and communication. A great combination!
As the seasons change, so do our life journeys. Nothing ever remains the same. But change can be beautiful and can teach us some important lessons. Lessons like harmonious teamwork with likeminded individuals working with shared values towards a common destination. Lessons like compassionately caring for our teammates and not leaving them behind. Lessons like communicating effectively and constantly in order to move forward cohesively and purposefully.
In whatever season of change you find yourself today, may the lessons learned from the geese be an encouragement to you:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12b, NIV)