A Lesson From Cranes, Crocodiles & Coyotes

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Nature gives us a clear example of the benefits of cooperation when we check out cranes, crocodiles and coyotes. Here’s a closer look. In migration, flying cranes take turns sharing the difficult leader position just like geese. Cranes also gather in great numbers and give up their territorial needs for safety during the nesting season. With so many eyes watching, predators are quickly detected so few birds are lost. Corn farmers in North Alabama value the cranes and leave part of their harvest behind for the birds to eat. There’s another kind of cooperation. 

Egyptian Crocodiles and plovers have a mutualistic relationship. The plucky plover will walk up to a crocodile and perch in its open mouth to pick food out of its teeth. It keeps the crocodiles’ teeth clean and healthy and the bird fed. Coyotes and badgers hunt together for mutual benefit. The coyote is in a bind if their prey goes underground so the badger, being a superior digger, will access it and both will share the meal. That’s collaboration to stay well fed. 

Humans have only survived this long because of cooperation. In ancient history two waring tribes could not agree on the proper way to live. One tribe was hunters and the other gatherers. Both thought their lifestyle was the best and the other should change their ways until they finally realized both worked well, and both could benefit by sharing. We could use more of that attitude today. In her book The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World, Nichola Raihani, Ph.D writes, “The history of life on earth is a history of teamwork, of collective action, and of cooperation.” 

Any of us who have been ill know the importance of collaboration between our medical advisors and ourselves. Parents and children need to work together as do our neighborhoods and communities. Life is so much better when we are looking out for each other. My husband and I like doing the household chores together, and when we grocery shop, we divide the list so we’re done in half the time. If we can’t cooperate at home, how can we expect too anywhere else? With a little effort everyone benefits. 

Reaching out to each other is rewarding and often has larger results than we imagine. In Shreve Elementary School, 5th grader Andi Musser was talking to a female classmate who had only brothers at home. The clothes she had were hand downs from her brothers and she longed for girl clothes. Andi went home, talked to her mom about what she wanted to do, and removed clothing from her closet that she had outgrown. 

Then Andi talked to the school principal about how difficult clothing was for quite a few students, and suggested setting up “Kindness Closet” that could be discretely accessed by anyone who needed clothing. Andi canvassed local businesses for donations and soon she had shelves, containers, and plenty of clothing to offer. Other students and adults joined her endeavors and this closet is now a fixture in her school building. A beautiful example of the result from working together. 

We cooperate when we communicate clearly, keep open to new opportunities, have clarity on roles and responsibilities, and understand a variety of perspectives. Working together means managing our emotions so we respond appropriately. Diversity is respected and seen as an asset. It means we apologize when we make mistakes and practice forgiveness for others. It means we listen carefully to what is being said and acknowledge everyone’s contribution. 

As in the animal kingdom, we humans are wise to work together for the good of the whole so everyone benefits. Let’s avoid getting stuck on the news stories of noncooperation and remind ourself of the cranes, coyotes, and crocodiles, so whatever situation we find ourself in, we’re working together in the same cooperative sympathy as nature. 

Until Next Time – Sylvia 

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