A Place for Every Thing

When someone – usually Mom – says, “A place for every thing, and every thing its place,” we get the message that it’s time to tidy up our rooms. (Note: I’m using “every thing” as two words instead of one to emphasize each individual item.)

That phrase is usually limited to describing inanimate objects. I recently drove from Omaha, Neb., to Norton, Kan., and was reminded that there is a place for every thing if we’re talking about human beings and other living creatures.

About 5 miles south of Red Cloud, Neb., near the Kansas border, there is a 612-acre prairie preserve. It is named after Pulitzer Prize-winning frontier novelist Willa Cather, who grew up in Red Cloud in the late 19th century.

From a distance (see accompanying photo) it doesn’t look anything but desolate and empty. A granite marker, however, details how busy that parcel is. It includes 250 species of plants, 59 species of birds, 29 species of mammals, 13 types of reptile and amphibians and innumerable insects and arachnids.

Each of them has a role in this ecosystem as they contribute to and benefit from their interactions.

A marker also explains the role that fire plays on the prairie. The destruction wildfires wreak is necessary to make room for new growth and the regeneration of the ecosystem.

At the end of my trip is Norton, Kan., where Valley Hope Addiction Treatment and Recovery began more than 50 years ago. It is also where I started my recovery from alcoholism in 1992. That was a wildfire that was either going to consume me or renew me. God blessed me with renewal.

I’ve gone back to Valley Hope numerous times since then. I like to spend time with the patient group and share my story to make the abstract hope of sobriety a little more concrete.

I talked about the prairie ecosystem to this year’s group to illustrate that each of us, no matter where we’re from or what we’ve been through, has a role to play in the interdependent world in which we live. That notion has been embraced by today’s measuring sticks of wealth, fame and power. Anyone who doesn’t measure up doesn’t matter. Or so the theory goes.

The challenges we face are many and the list gets longer every day. My list includes conformity and I believe it poses as great a risk to us as climate change, nuclear war or too much chocolate. Given our instinctive need to “fit in,” conformity seems only natural.

The inhabitants in that expanse of prairie have their own identities, just like we do. Each of them fits in because of what they are and what they’re equipped to do. Some slither and some take flight while others sway in the wind. Regardless, they can’t flourish without each other. There is synergy in nature. Man has work to do in that regard.

A place for every thing. And every thing in its place.

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