Have you noticed how all of life is connected? You probably know
about the relationship between honey ants (farm ants) and aphids.
The ants can’t seem to get enough of the tasty honey dew left behind
by aphids, those tiny sap-sucking insects probably living in your
garden. These two insects have a fascinating relationship. In
exchange for all the sugary treats aphids deposit on leaves, the
ants wage fierce battle against wasps, beetles and spiders that try
to dine on aphids for lunch. As those aphids keep their ant friends
happy, the ants keep their aphid buddies alive. Everyone wins,
except the plants, of course.

The ants do better because of the aphids. The aphids do better
because of the ants. It’s a relationship called mutualism, and the
rest of us could probably take a lesson. People, too, succeed best
when they help others out.

James Bender, in his book How to Talk Well (New York: McGraw-Hill
Book Co., Inc., 1994), illustrates how it benefits to everyone when
we mutually help each other. He relates a story of a farmer who grew
award-winning corn. Each year he entered his best corn in the
regional fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him to learn about how he
grew blue-ribbon corn year after year. The reporter discovered
something interesting. He learned that the farmer actually shared
his best seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seeds with your neighbors
when they are entering corn in competition against yours each year?”
the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up
pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If
my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily
degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must
help my neighbors grow good corn.”

It’s a simple and important principle. His corn cannot improve
unless his neighbor’s corn also improves. He cannot succeed simply
by watching out for Number One. He succeeds best by helping his
neighbors succeed. That’s mutualism.

And I am aware that it goes for me, too. Do I want to succeed? Then
I must help others to succeed.

Do I want to live in peace and harmony? Then I need to help my
neighbors also live in peace, and the very peace they experience
will add to my own.

Do I want to live meaningfully and well? Then I should help to
enrich the lives of others, for my own happiness and well-being is
bound up in the lives I touch.

In other words, if I want to grow good corn, I need to help my
neighbors grow good corn. Call it mutualism. Call it a principle of
success. Call it a law of life. I only know that none of us truly
wins until we all win.

– Steve Goodier

Find Steve Goodier here: