In the days of the early west, wagon trains led groups of explorers to new lands. They used oxen and horses to pull their loads. There is something about newness and adventure that captivates our imaginations and gives us motivation to keep exploring and pressing on toward new horizons. This quest can present itself in new and different ways of doing things, new scenery, and new ideas about just about anything.
In our interfaith work, I have come to appreciate the term “come alongside” which is to mean: let me come alongside of you to assist in our quest TOGETHER. To come alongside is not to push, it is not to pull, it is to figuratively be side by side in the endeavor.
Thinking about these ideas, I was reminded about the term “equally yoked.” The phrase stems from the Bible, where it admonishes one to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. The phrase “equally yoked” however isn’t even in the Bible, and doesn’t actually reference marriage or relationships though the term is so compelling that many have adopted this phrase for various things.
The yoke devise itself is a wooden beam used between a pair of oxen or horses to allow them to pull a load together. The yoke is attached to an oxbow, usually in front of the animal’s shoulders which allows their power to be harnessed in pulling the load forward. If they are unequally yoked, then the burden is not shared properly, and the team will be totally ineffective in moving forward at all.
I have written much about the Millennial generation and how we can celebrate their goodness, harness their traits, energy, and passion. Now I offer this analogy as how to really embrace them and harness the power of their lives for the benefit of all generations. In using the analogy of being yoked together, understand this is simply imagery as to moving together in the right direction, sharing the load, and is not intended as imagery of being enslaved or in bondage. My intent is the imagery of each generation working alongside one another, equally yoked in common causes.
In the book The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership, John Wooden, regarded as the greatest college basketball coach of all time, shared a childhood memory about his father. Where he grew up in Indiana, gravel companies would pay for a team of horses or mules by the wagon load to haul gravel out of the pits.
One steamy summer day a young farmer—20 years old or so—was trying to get his team of horses to pull a fully loaded wagon out of the pit. He was whipping and cursing those two beautiful plow horses that were frothing at the mouth, stomping, and pulling back from him. Dad [John Wooden’s Dad] watched for a while and then went over and said to the farmer, “Let me take em for you.” I think the farmer was relieved to hand over the reins. First Dad started talking to the horses, almost whispering to them, and stroking their noses with a soft touch. Then he walked between them, holding their bridles and bits while he continued talking—very calmly and gently—as they settled down. Gradually he stepped out in front of them and gave a little whistle to start them moving forward while he guided the reins. Within moments, those two big plow horses pulled the wagon out of the gravel pit as easy as could be. As if they were happy to do it.
Using this story, let me offer three tips to come alongside and to be equally yoked with the Millennial (and all other) generations.
- There must be a common cause. It may seem obvious, but knowing our purpose is key to accomplishing great works together. If our purposes are not aligned, then our efforts are often fruitless. Work together to discover and embrace the commonality that can change the world for the better.
- The passion for the pull needs to be there. I believe that LOVE and caring is the key to develop a passion to move forward in the common good. Life is about relationships—and even in the story of John Wooden’s dad, the gentle touch and care created the atmosphere to achieve the desired results.
- Come along side theory. This was the key in the story, to get right between the horses, put an arm around them, and walk WITH them through the process. I have a son who is challenged with ADHD. He is brilliant and doesn’t suffer fools easily. He is also a Millennial. He didn’t respond at all positively if someone (such as a parent or teacher) barked out orders. But if I came alongside him and put my arm around him, if the cause was just, he would walk through walls with me.
Team up, come along side, become equally yoked and move common causes forward together—the Millennial way—for the benefit of ALL generations.