“There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others.” The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown, Page 161
“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes–that ‘swing’ as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came…it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.“ – George Yeoman Pocock as quoted The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown, Page229
I read this and have to put down my book and stared into space. I’m taken back to a few years ago when a team of teachers serving in China found our “swing.” It was a year of amazing unity, biblical community like I’d never before and never since been a part of: a family who didn’t share the same bloodline. Like the “swing” described so vividly in the quotes above, it is something I’ll never forget as long as I live.
That team changed me. I came away from that year a more generous person. I learned about true hospitality and came to a greater appreciation and awe of God’s ability to use conflict to deepen relationships. That glimpse of what can be accomplished when there’s unity leaves me thirsty for more.
Looking back, I see how we were able to find our swing that year because we were all on the same page. So many times I’ve heard people say “that’s not why I’m here” in reference to serving their team or living well in a team context.
People come with their head in the clouds, ready to save the world and ignore the people serving right beside them. It breaks my heart because I’ve seen how much better we all are when we work together.
I’ve seen community lived out between teammates in such a way that the first glance of it initiated curiosity from outsiders. “Why do you love each other so? You aren’t related. You haven’t even known each other that long,” our students would say as they saw us feed each other and go out of our way to carry each others’ burdens. We all laid down our “this is why I’m here” agenda and agreed on a greater good of team unity and worked every day to keep it that way.
Things weren’t always happy. We shed tears together and fought hard fights to keep our relationships intact. Reconciliation played a huge part of our success. We also saw each other throughout the day and even lived on the same floor, all tucked inside our own cozy apartments that shared a hallway where the children laughed and played.
The thing we did best was feed each other. At one point, we realized we all holed ourselves into our individual kitchens every night to cook dinner at basically the same time. “What if,” someone pondered aloud,” we fed each other?” Even though I didn’t really think I could possibly feed 8 adults and 4 kids well, it was an attractive idea.” You cook for all of us on Monday evening, I’ll cook for us Tuesday, they’ll take Wednesday and you can cover Thursday.”
We began our little communal experiment and everyone seemed quite pleased. Even though cooking in such a large quantity was challenging at first, I eventually got the hang of it. Instead of shopping for four meals, I just had to gather ingredients for one. Instead of washing and chopping and kneading and frying four times a week, I just had to do it once! I’m amazed that even the singles on the team were willing to take a day, and working together they fed us all as well.
The food we ate that year was impressive, but the community it created was astounding. Four nights a week teammates saw each other face to face in each others’ homes. Sometimes we’d all eat together, other times people would drop by and make a plate to take back to their place, but either way we saw each other. We checked in. We did life together.
Guests were always welcome, and I think that’s what made it even more special. I can still remember the astonished looks on faces of college students as our team piled into their hosts’ apartment, heaping plates full of food and sitting down to eat together and chat about the day. The body of Christ came to life right before their eyes as they saw us live out true community in one another’s apartments and out and about as well.
Life goes on and every team doesn’t find its swing. As stated in my opening quote, “Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it”. However, I can tell you it does happen. I hope one day it will happen to you, and when it does you’ll cherish it for the true gift that it is.
Where have you experienced swing?