Our office mail always comes with a rubber band wrapped around it. About a year ago, I started saving the rubber bands and making them into a ball. Each day I add a new band to the ball, which doesn't seem like much, but my ball has gradually grown to the size of a baseball. Given its composition, it is naturally bouncy, and I'm finding it makes for a fun diversion when I take a break.
I once used a rubber band ball as an illustration for a children's sermon on the importance of having a group of supportive people in our lives. I held up a few individual rubber bands and asked the kids what would happen if I tried to bounce them on the floor. They looked at me rather strangely when I threw a few individual bands down to the floor, and nothing happened. Then I took out my ball of bands and demonstrated how easy it was to bounce it on the floor, and how fun it was to play catch with the ball as well. We talked about how a large, tight-knit group of rubber bands could do something impossible for a few separate ones to do. We then concluded that the same was true of people. Together we could do much more than each person could do on their own.
I am an avid fan of the Tour de France, the famous multiple stage bike race which concludes this Sunday. As I watch the race, I often think of my rubber band ball. If you know anything about biking, you know about the importance of the peloton, the large group of tight-knit riders who stay together over the length of a day's ride. It just so happens that peloton is a French word, which literally means "little ball." Makes sense when I see the participants riding so close together that they resemble a fast-moving ball of riders.
So why is the peloton so important in competitive cycling? Why do the riders choose to ball together so tightly, sometimes riding thirty to forty miles per hour just inches from each other? Wouldn't it be better and safer to space themselves out? The reason is the same as the message of the children's sermon I mentioned earlier: good things happen when we have a supportive group of people surrounding us.
In a bike peloton, riders alternate taking turns breaking the wind (pulling) and drafting behind other riders. This makes an incredible difference, allowing all cyclists to achieve results that would be impossible to accomplish on their own. The effort it takes to ride in the middle or back of a peloton is so much less than is required at the front, that it actually provides a rest for the cyclists who are benefiting the hard work being done by the riders who are pulling up in front.
In biking, as in life, individual skills are highly valuable. But the best results are always achieved when we have a community, a peloton, of people with whom we can ride and bounce through life together.
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