Years ago, on a business trip in another city, I attended a downtown morning AA meeting. I walked by a homeless shelter to get to the meeting; a couple of fellows were attending with all their worldly possessions.
One caught my eye. Everything about him announced his life on the streets. Watching him, I could understand why he might have trouble getting a job or an apartment. He occasionally twitched and grimaced as he quietly sat. Judging his appearances, I did not expect much, but I was snapped to attention by his share.
He announced his name and claimed membership in Alcoholics Anonymous, then began. “AA meetings are too important to waste.
“We need to hear messages of hope that we can spiritually grow and overcome our disease. Whining about how our days are going confuses our simple Program of sobriety; it dilutes the message of hope.”
He gently rocked back and forth; tapping the table for emphasis, he continued, “focus, focus is the key. Focus on the Steps; focus on the solution to life’s problems, not a description of life’s problems.
“By the grace of God, I am sober and grateful to have a warm room and hot coffee. But I am more grateful for what I hear in this room. And what I hear keeps me from a first drink. And what I hear helps me deal with the world.
Another pause as he collected his thoughts, moving to and fro in his chair, “This is where I hear about prayer and meditation, and I hear about helping others. I hear about caring about everyone I meet today, even people who don’t give me anything when I hold my hand out. That is what keeps me sober, and that is what gives me the tools to cope with my life. No one is doing any good wandering around the topics and sharing about life in general.
“Thanks, I’ll pass.”
Wow, talk about judging a book by its cover. If there was anyone in the room entitled to complain about his day, he was. Instead, he had a strong message about the Program. I had utterly misapprehended what this guy was all about, and it was the best AA share I had heard in a long time. It will be a long time before I make that mistake again.