Sunday, August 06, 2006

Unusual thumb wrestling lesson

DAY 8 of "A Journey with the Brethren"

There are many lessons to learn here at the Brethren Service Center—the host facility for BVS's training called "Orientation." Some of our training involves physical and mental exercises in sociology and human behaviour. One recent lesson taught by Susanna, a wonderful instructor from an associated BVS organization On Earth Peace," involved thumb wrestling.

"The Brethren Service Center (BSC) in New Windsor, Maryland, has been helping people in need for more than fifty years. Owned and operated by the Church of the Brethren General Board, BSC houses organizations that work in areas of relief and development, disaster response, social justice and peace education. The facilities include the New Windsor Conference Center, Emergency Response/Service Ministries, SERRV International, Inc., On Earth Peace Assembly (OEPA) and the administrative offices of Interchurch Medical Assistance, Inc. (I.M.A.)." —BSC Website

We, as BVS volunteers, normally don't get assigned to the more home-based and faith related operations, such as the ones above, but we do get assigned to many more diverse and complex projects that requires a fair degree of human understanding. They call it a cross cultural experience, a term well used by today's volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps and BVS.

One of our first exercises was going to teach us a lesson in working together. We were told to pick a partner and get our hands in the the thumb wrestling position—I partnered with Katie, a "smart" (I'll explain the smart part in a second), 22 year old educator and one of my favorite people here. We were then given instructions to begin thumb wrestling and keep count of the total wins. Right off the bat my partner lets me win; she lets me win again; I catch on to the stategy and let her win; we go back in forth letting each other win 'til we racked-up a total of 32 wins."

The exercise ended 60 seconds later and then the instructor went around the room asking every pair what their total wins were. Most said 0-3, with one pair boasting a second place with still only 23 wins. What was the lesson, we were all asked by the instructor? I raised my hand to catch the eye of our cleaver instructor and exclaimed, "Cooperation not competition!"

Check back for more "A Journey with the Brethren."