Better be nice to Mother Nature

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

How did your celebration of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation go?

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I’m not surprised. I did nothing about the day because I even forgot when it’s to be observed. By the way, its date is Sept. 1 and Pope Francis promulgated this annual celebration back on Aug. 6, 2015.

This special day of prayer, according to the pope, “will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

And pray we should. Mother Nature has unleashed a real beating these past few weeks. The country has been pummeled by two massive hurricanes. Montana has had to endure a grueling fire season, battling wildfires exacerbated by the extreme drought there. Our neighbors to the south in Mexico were shaken by a magnitude-8.1 earthquake. And some 40 million people have been affected by severe flooding in Southeast Asia.

Paraphrasing the 1970s Chiffon Margarine commercial, these events prove that “it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.”

But there is a gentler side to nature as well. Many people in our area were mesmerized by that total solar eclipse. But a person doesn’t have to wait years and years to experience something as breathtaking. Labor Day weekend brings a flurry of traffic each year through Tonganoxie as folks wind their way to Grinter’s Sunflower Farm in Lawrence.

After many years of promising myself a trip there, I finally made the exhausting six-mile journey. Knowing that crowds are big on the weekends, I went on a Tuesday afternoon, thinking I’d have the place to myself. Wrong! There were at least 50 cars there — one even from Virginia — as well as a number of motorcycles. People were fanned out all through the 40 acres of dazzling sunflowers. It was heartwarming to see people on walkers — and motorized wheelchairs, as well — making their way in the fields.

There was no shortage of smiles all around — accompanied by the sounds of scampering, laughing kids. And everywhere you looked, there were . . . cameras. Heck, I even broke down and took about a dozen (or so) selfies with the big yellow flowers. It was truly a marvel to behold.

If you, like me, let the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation slip by, don’t worry. Every day is an opportunity to take stock of our stewardship of this world and how we can hand it off in better shape to those who come after us. Maybe the list below can inspire us all to be nicer to Mother Nature because . . . you know.

  • Avoid using disposable plates, cups and cutlery.
  • Walk or bike to places instead of drive.
  • Don’t litter.
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth (and save about 1800 gallons of clean water a year).
  • Recycle cans, bottles, paper and plastic.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator. (It’s good for your body, too!)
  • Don’t print things from the computer that you don’t really need.
  • Borrow equipment from others to avoid buying something that you rarely use.
  • Drive with your car windows down from time to time.
  • Use old magazines for arts and crafts projects.
  • Buy in bulk to save on packaging.

So, why should we treat nature well? Because Pope Francis knows it has a ripple effect. This story captures that sentiment:

Once a wise old botany teacher gave her young and eager students an assignment to go out by the side of some lonely road and find a small, unnoticed flower. She asked them to study the flower for a long time.

“Get a magnifying glass and study the delicate veins in the leaves, and notice the nuances and shades of color. Turn the leaf slowly and observe its symmetry. And remember: This flower might have gone unnoticed and unappreciated if you had not found and admired it.”

When the class returned after the assignment, the teacher observed: “People are just like that unnoticed flower. Each one is different, carefully crafted, uniquely endowed. But you have to spend time with a person to realize this. So many people go unnoticed and unappreciated because no one has ever taken time with them to admire their uniqueness.” (Found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “The Sower’s Seeds.”)

Sadly, by the time you get this issue of The Leaven, those sunflowers at Grinter’s will have passed their prime. But, take heart.

There’s always next year!

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