I spent Sunday afternoon in a workshop held in the same room I had spoken in Sunday morning. Turnout was disappointing; there were fewer people there for the workshop than for the morning meeting and hardly anyone from the meeting stuck around for the workshop. At least many of the faces were unfamiliar. That's always a good sign. And for those of us who were there, it was good and satisfying workshop.
Last night—Monday—I drove 171 km to attend a District open house followed by a monthly District Committee meeting. Turnout for this was disappointing too: 18 people, including three of us Area officers, who came from out of town: the Delegate, the Alternate Delegate and me, the Chairperson. I spoke for 5 minutes or so about the Area structure: how we're organized for general service at the Area level.
There were two very bright spots in the evening for me. During the open house, which had no program and consisted of us sitting about eating wraps, veggies and dip, pretzels and cookies, I sat and talked for quite a while with a guy I'd never met before. I'll call him Joe.
Early in the conversation Joe asked where I was from, I told him, and then he asked if I'd grown up there. I told him no, and named the town and state I'd grown up. He said, "Oh, I used to live in that state [it's a small state] but I'm not sure where the town is." I explained to him and he responded, "I lived for a while in XYZ, not far from there."
"I don't remember where that is."
"It's right next to the ABC park."
"Oh, that's only a few miles from where I grew up. In fact, when I was a Boy Scout we had an event in that park and I used my first aid training to treat a man who had blown the back of his calf off with a shotgun."
"Well, that's interesting; I was left for dead in that park by some Boy Scouts."
Joe went on to tell me the story, about how he'd been partially crippled by polio and wanted to join to the Boy Scouts as a way of getting some friends just after moving there, how the Boy Scouts—the kids, by themselves, without any adult supervision—had put him through a hazing of having to follow them through the park on his crutches, how they had crossed a old dam with a break in it, which they jumped over, but from which he fell when attempting the jump, landing on his head on the rocks below and knocking himself out, coming to on his back with his face barely out of water, and how the boys had run away and sworn a pact of secrecy among themselves. Needless to say, he never joined the Boy Scouts and none of them became his friend because he eventually named them all and therefore was a snitch.
All this happened the year after I had moved, as a 7-year-old, from across town to 3 or 4 miles from this park, which was practically across the street from where I went to junior high school.
Joe was born in 1945, a few years before I was, and was one of the last people in this country to get polio. He likes to say he got polio from Dr Salk. He and a bunch of others contracted it from a bad batch of polio vaccine as they were rushing the vaccine out to get everyone immunized. Because he had polio, they discovered that he had some other serious problem in his hip and he believes, especially since he regained the use of his legs, that he was better off than he would have been if he hadn't contracted polio.
He's been sober 7 years and married for 30. He married his bartender. They both drank until he got sober. She continued to drink after that and made a lot of disparaging remarks about A.A. and his attendance at meetings. He eventually learned to disengage from this kind of conversation.
Then her best friend, who lived out of state, called and asked his wife to come help her. Her husband was in the hospital dying. Joe's wife went to help out, leaving their two children with him. While away, she watched her best friend's husband turn yellow, swell up and die. A direct result of alcoholism. She stayed an additional two weeks to help her best friend get her feet back on the ground. When she got back home, she asked Joe to take her to a meeting. She's been sober ever since.
Eventually Joe's sponsor told him that it was time for his wife to get a home group.
Joe said, "I'll be happy to help her find a home group."
Joe's sponsor replied, "No, Joe, you don't understand. She's already found a home group and it's yours. Now it's time for you to find a new home group."
So he did.
It turned out that Joe's former home group was one for which I conducted a group inventory a few years ago. It's a Big Book study group and at the time, they were enduring a lot of criticism and were being accused of violating Traditions and being "Big Book Nazis [subscription required to view link]." I like to think that I helped them become confident that there was nothing wrong with their approach to studying the Big Book line by line. It may not be true, but I like to think it anyway.
Interestingly enough, of the 15 local people at the District meeting last night, at least 3 were affiliated with this Big Book study group: their GSR, the District Treasurer and Joe, who was attending as an interested member without any official position. That group must be doing something right!
Unfortunately, at the end of the day I wound up back home. A crowd of teenage boys was in the living room watching Monday Night Football. At 11:45 pm they let out a roar of approval over whatever had just happened and I got up out of bed to go ask them to keep the noise down. Half an hour later, I got up again to go ask a group of them to go somewhere else because their cigarette smoke was blowing in my bedroom window. They agreed to move, but not without a look of disgust and a few murmured words of contempt from my stepson, Thorn. And of course this morning the living room was a mess, with food, clothing and other objects scattered all over and a small ensemble of dining chairs encircling the television. At least no one was asleep on the couch or on the floor. No doubt there were a few more cigarette butts lying around too, since it seems impossible for these boys to do anything else but throw them on the ground. A quick glance about the yard quickly reveals their favorite places to smoke.