Watching out for one another saves us all

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Every Tuesday evening at Trilogy Recovery Community’s Family Support Group, we tell stories. “We” includes parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, and family friends.

We tell sad stories, happy stories, stories about being lost, stories about being found.

A few weeks ago Kelli, the mother of a teenager who spent two months in treatment for opiate addiction, told a “pay it forward” story.

Kelli’s son spent two months at Wilderness Treatment Center in Marion, Mont. The counselors there know from long experience and reliable research that we can protect our kids from relapsing if we wrap them up in extended care programs. The more time people spend in treatment, the better their chances of staying clean and sober.

But treatment and extended care programs cost a lot of money, even for people with insurance. This family, like so many families, was simply tapped out.

So, with fear and trembling, the family brought their son back home, hoping and praying that he would be able to avoid the people, places, and things that might trigger a relapse.

The phone call came out of the blue. “Someone from the family group at Wilderness gave us an anonymous donation so our son could go an extended care program,” Kelli said, tears of gratitude rolling down her cheeks. “My son wants to leave as soon as possible — he knows his life depends on it.”

There were 14 of us gathered together that night, sitting on sofas and chairs arranged in a circle. As we talked about “paying it forward,” a favorite story came to mind. Told and retold throughout the ages, this particular version of the story is borrowed from Wilkie Au’s “The Way of the Heart.”

Just one more thought before offering this story. Some might call this a religious story, but I respectfully disagree. I believe “God” is a word that is also, in many ways, a story. How do we “see” God? Where is God? Is there a God? Why does God exist?

For some of us there is no clear or obvious answer to these questions. The search for meaning, with all its mysteries and unanswered questions, is often a never-ending journey.

But I do believe that in our relationships and interactions with each other — and, perhaps especially in the stories we read and tell — we sometimes experience a sense of awe and wonder, of something larger, something beyond ourselves. That’s what this story, and our Tuesday groups, teach me.

Time before time, when the world was young, two brothers shared a field and a mill. Each night they divided evenly the grain they had ground together during the day. Now as it happened, one of the brothers lived alone while the other brother had a wife and a large family.

One day, the single brother thought to himself: “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have only myself to care for, but my brother has children to feed.”

So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.

But the married brother said to himself one day, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he is old?”

So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary. As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.

Then one night the brothers met each other halfway between their two houses, suddenly realized what had been happening, and embraced each other in love.

The story is that God witnessed their meeting and proclaimed, “This is a holy place — a place of love — and here it is that my temple shall be built.” And so it was. The holy place, where God is made known, is the place where human beings discover each other in love.

Kathy Ketcham is the co-author of 14 books and executive director of Trilogy Recovery Community. For more information, go to www.trilogyrecovery.org.

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