Episode 28: talking service with John S. 

A discussion on AA service with John S & Joe C. 

'Tis the season to show our gratitude. Is gratitude a feeling or an action; is it talked about or demonstrated? 

The circle-triangle often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous represent three tenets of AA life: recovery, unity, service. Today we're talking about service. At the time of posting this podcast, I had some bad news come my way. AA World Service Director and Class B Trustee Joe D died this week. I last heard Joe D talk about AA’s history of diversity at our 2015 District 10/Area 83 service workshop called, “So You Think You’re Different: Diversity in AA” about a year ago.

This episode is dedicated to the memory and legacy of Joe D. 

Joe was on the trustees’ Literature Committee that was recommending the atheist/agnostic pamphlet that was rejected by the General Service Conference. Joe was visibly frustrated by the time, love and service that went into the draft, which was all for not. Joe was one of the “good guys,” (not to suggest there is any nefarious element at General Service). He would certainly have been a voice or reason and asset to AA World Service – and all of us – at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal mediation now underway. In this regard, the timing couldn’t be more tragic. 

I have a hard time grasping that Joe D is gone for good. He was a former Area 83 delegate (South East Ontario Canada and NW New York State – AA’s only international Area). He was a mentor to many past and present trusted servants both in Ontario Canada and around the General Service Office. It is timely that we’re talking service; many of us to step up to fill a void created with the loss of Joe D. If 2016 has taught us anything, it is this: Don’t take your democracy for granted; liberty comes with responsibility.

"What keeps you clean and sober, through thick and thin, all these 40-years, Joe?" you might ask. While why I am sober is still partly a mystery, there's no mystery to what I do to stay sober. I stay busy. Service, within AA and in our larger community, isn't something I do out of duty. It isn't something I do because I fear relapsing if I'm not a good boy. Maybe that was true at one point in early recovery. But today, service - in and outside of AA - is a building block within a purposeful life. A higher purpose was something I learned from secular AA friends who didn't drink the sobriety-granting, prayer-answering higher power Kool-Ade. 

If you are like me, if you don't connect with popular AA God-talk that comes with 12-Step discussion, read the Traditions, read the Concepts. Our Traditions make one vague reference to god and the Concepts of World Service don't mention supernatural forces at all. To a theist, god is assumed in every corner of AA and good for theists. But for me, service work is a reprieve from the "turn it over, trust god" talk in so many meetings. Service work is secular. Hospitals, correction facilities, public information, accessibility, cooperation with the professional community, being group treasurer or answering the phones - these are all roll-up-your-sleeves activities will little concern for philosophy or abstractions. 

Rarely do I ever get into debate over supernatural vs. natural worldviews when I'm talking about how AA can reach more underrepresented populations. Phones, trade-shows, coffee pots and committee meetings don't care what any of us believe. The same folks that make me roll my eyes if we're talking about Step Three, are good-natured colleagues when it comes to AA service work. In this regard, service and unity are linked. Regardless of opposing views on this or that, I find myself united in common good, in carrying AA's message, cheerfully with no cause or time for debate about spirituality. 

Some will tell you that for them service is spiritual. I don't fight them on that. For me, service is secular; it is neither religious nor irreligious. It can help keep us sober and satisfied with life, regardless of what we do or do not believe.

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