Have you ever heard of the phrase, “If/Then”? IF this happens… THEN this occurs?
I was recently sitting down with a sponsee who is 29 years sober and in the middle of A.A. doing some work in the Big Book. We were sharing our thoughts with each other about the providence (definition: timely preparation for future eventualities) of our program of action, the way in which it was written down, the passion through which it was shared, and the ultimate result on each of our lives.
Think about it for a moment… IF Bill had not gone to Akron on a business trip, IF on that glorious Saturday afternoon he had not gone down to the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel and heard the “gay chatter” coming from the lobby bar, IF he had not also noticed the church directory at the other end of the lobby, IF he had not remembered that he had been restored to sanity, IF he had not called a preacher to ask him if he knew of an alcoholic he could talk to, IF that preacher had not known Henrietta Sieberling, IF Henrietta had not known Dr. Bob and Anne Smith; THEN he might not have met Dr. Bob on May 12, 1935 and you might not be reading this article I wrote for you.
It would be really easy to pass all that off and not give it the credit it’s due. It would be really easy to hear that story be shared many times and not really give it another thought as to the importance of each one of those “seconds” that occurred (how they unfolded) and the “inches” Bill walked (from one side of that lobby to the other) to pick up that phone and call that preacher. It would be really easy to hear that story and not truly embrace the power found in those seconds and inches.
IF I had not had a friend who was told by the Dallas County judicial system that he had to go to A.A. in 1986, IF he had not reached out to me and said, “I have to go to A.A. but I don’t want to go by myself, will you go with me?”, IF I had not said, “Sure, I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ll go with you,” IF we had gone to ANY OTHER meeting other than the one we went to that just happened to be a closed meeting of A.A. with me having to leave him there, IF that group member had not given me the “newcomer’s packet” filled with pamphlets and asked me to come back in an hour to pick up my friend, IF I had not driven around for a little bit then finally stopped and picked up that envelope and pulled out the pamphlet, “44 Questions,” IF I had not been willing to be rigorously honest for the first time in my life so I could see myself on those pages (42 of 44 questions were answered YES); THEN I might not be writing this article that you are reading today.
On Saturday, December 19, 2020, the A.A. General Service Office executed our 2020 U.S./Canada Western Virtual Forum. I was in the Southwest Regional Hospitality Room just before the forum opened and it was so cool to listen to Al M., one of our Class A Non-Alcoholic Trustees share how he met Bill W. when he was a teenager (his dad was a sober member of A.A. at that time) at what is now the General Service Office in NYC. He shared that he remembered Bill coming around the corner and how his Dad’s demeanor changed when Bill walked into the room. He remembered Bill, but mostly remembered watching how his Dad changed when Bill came in. IF his dad had not been sober, THEN he might not have become a non-alcoholic trusted servant for A.A. as a whole.
Also, it was so cool in that hospitality room to listen to Terry E. from Las Cruces, NM about how he had a conversation with Bill W. in the mid 60’s about the big conversation that was going on at that time about the difference between “defects of character” and shortcomings.” He asked Bill directly about why he chose to use those two different words to describe the same thing. Bill had shared that a school teacher he knew had suggested that using different words to describe the same thing would be better for composition of the writing. IF Bill had not listened to that teacher, THEN our literature might be very different than it is today.
We may believe that the decisions we make today on our journey toward becoming recovered alcoholics may not be of great import, but they could quite possibly change the lives of those to come. How I choose to sponsor the men and women I sponsor will impact A.A. down the line. How I comport myself in an A.A. meeting will be remembered by that newcomer who just walked in the door. The service I give in the general service structure may help to make some much needed changes to how we honor Tradition 5. Each of these things (and so many more) speak volumes to the importance of my decisions today in how I suit up, show up and respect not only our past, but the future I have a part in building for that still suffering alcoholic who needs our life saving program. At some point, I need to remember, it’s not JUST about me. My decisions affect others.
I’ll close with this, I was listening to a speaker in an Old-Timers Panel, Jessica F. from South Bend, IN say that she, and the life she has today is a composite of 200-300 people that have come before her. I am in absolute agreement with that because I, too, am a composite of everyone who has come before me. Because they did _____, I got _____!!! How blessed am I? How blessed are we?
“God, may I always be aware of the seconds I spend and the inches I take that I never lose sight of the fact that I do them all in an effort to draw closer to you in a spirit of love and service! Amen.”
In love and service,