Synergy, Teamwork, Dad Raised Mules

It was before I was born that my dad raised mules, but I heard the stories over and over again. Dad owned a few mares and a donkey, a male donkey (I’ll call it that cause I’m a chaplain and don’t think I’m supposed to use the word Dad used to describe the male donkey, although it is Biblical!) What was born from the crossing of a donkey and a horse was a sterile mule. My experience with mules during my missionary travels in the Andes Mountains says that it’s a good thing they are sterile. Such vile animals should never be allowed to reproduce! My apologies to you who actually like mules (our EAP program offers mental counseling). I think Daddy raised mules because he couldn’t afford to own the big Clydesdales or Percherons, or other breeds of draft horses. 

My reason for bringing up my Dad and mules is to introduce the idea of Synergy. Solomon brought up the idea in Ecclesiastes. 

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
— Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The definition of synergy is,“the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.” It comes from two Greek words that mean “work together.” 

It’s like this, draft horses of today are large muscular animals that are used for pulling great loads and moving very heavy objects. A single draft horse might pull a load up to 8,000 pounds. Two draft horses together can pull about three times that amount, or about 24,000 pounds. Instead of doubling the force, it is tripled. It’s called teamwork. 

But Dad talked a lot of training the mules to make a team. He spoke of putting boards with sharpened nails between them so one of the lazy mules couldn’t “lean” on the other mule and therefore do less work. He spoke of blinders that he used at first, then as they became accustomed to working together taking the inside blinders off so they could see each other. Dad’s stories of training mules to work together as a team instead of just two animals tied together with leather, usually ended with who bought the team. That was Dad’s bread and butter, raising two very stubborn animals and making them a team that would pull a plow or a wagon for someone else. 

According to Jim Stovall who wrote on the subject of Synergy, it goes beyond this. A team that has trained together and work together can go beyond the tripling of their force up to quadrupling it. That’s right, according to Jim, a trained draft horse team can pull 32,000 pounds compared to the 8,000 pounds that one alone can pull. Quadruple the force. 

Last month on the local news I saw firemen from different towns working at a training exercise. The Fire chief’s comment to the reporter went something like this. “We don’t want the first time we meet each other to be in an emergency situation where teamwork is critical.” 

Teamwork is critical. It is critical in our families as mother and father raise kids, and train them to live and work in a world that’s not always easy. It is critical in your church as you carry out the Great Commission. It is critical in your job as you and your teammates operate multi-million dollar equipment to keep us and our world fed. 

My prayer today is that each one of this team we call Simmons work together to accomplish what none of us could accomplish working separately.