By profession, my brother-in-law in Saskatchewan is a farmer. His passion, however, is Buck and Charlie, a pair of Belgian draught horses that he frequently exhibits at fairs and farming demonstrations. Individually, Buck and Charlie can pull a load of about a ton. As a team, however, they are able to pull five! It is an example of the principle of non-summativity: together they are more than the sum of their parts. It is a lesson we perpetually need to relearn.

You or someone you know has been seriously impacted by the economic downturn of the last few years. You or someone you know has lost a job, has lost a home or is upside down with the mortgage, or has closed a business.

There are two reactions to this situation at work among us. One we have seen in the election cycle. On both the left and the right, there seems to be a great deal of anger. I have not heard much from any candidate other than how dangerous the other candidate will be if elected. I suspect that beneath the anger there is a lot of fear. All sides have opportunistically attempted to exploit the high level of anxiety in our culture. Fear feels powerless and out of control, so we mask it with anger, and it feels more empowered. "Throw the bums out!" becomes our rallying cry. Or we turn our anger upon a designated scapegoat; an ancient practice that long ago actually involved a goat that would symbolize everything troubling us, whose slaughter would give us the illusion of power and control.

Here in the Foothills there has been, at least in a small way, a different response. Last winter, taking a lesson from Buck and Charlie, a handful of local clergy came together with the specific goal of seeking new ways to work together to address the needs of our community. We were also aware that there are others beyond our communities of faith able to team together to pull an even greater load. Since that first meeting, we have been regularly coming together, increasing our reach with members of the business sector, other non-profit organizations and service clubs and public education to share stories and resources, to broaden the reach of our individual organizations and to respond to the very real needs right here in our own neighborhoods.

There are some challenges that come with working together. Perhaps the greatest of these is setting aside all the places where we are different, and agreeing to work from all the places where we are able. If nothing else, this new initiative has raised our awareness; all of us are more aware of those providing resources. But I think it has done far more than that. Facing a daily barrage of bad news, it has reminded us that many, if not most, of us are hard wired to help our neighbors; to heed the prophet Micah's call to "do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God."

Like to get involved? In this month when we pause to give thanks for a bountiful table, there are a couple of great opportunities. The first is on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to noon at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Schools, churches, non-profit and service clubs will be showcasing service opportunities in our community. Several of those organizations are sponsoring a Thanksgiving Day of Service, a full Thanksgiving Day meal for area families in need. You can help with monetary donations or by volunteering to help set up, cook, serve or clean up after. For more information on both of these events, go to

Let's take a lesson from Buck and Charlie. Together we can be more than we are as individuals.

Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.

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