This Muff Musing is a fictional story, any resemblance to any real people is totally coincidental — we think.
While on a business trip in southeastern Wisconsin, I arrived a day early, as was my habit, and found a local meeting to attend. Using the web, I discovered a noon meeting at the local Alano Club and was glad to be there. It was an unusual meeting, to say the least.
The chairman started the meeting and did all the readings – How It Works, Acceptance, the Promises, the Daily Reflection, the Twenty-Four Hours, and even the short version of the Twelve Traditions!
On top of that, he introduced himself and told the meeting that he could stop coming to meetings once he had learned everyone’s name in A.A.
Once on a roll, he told the people attending that reporting for work was easier than looking for work. It’s hard to find a job when you are unemployed, but he pointed out that it’s easier to find a job when you’re already employed.
He reiterated his assertion that once you’ve learned the name of everyone in the program, you can stop coming to meetings and just employ the 12 steps in your life. Since there are millions and millions of A.A. members, his aspiration to learn all the names seemed a bit unreachable.
In a confusing yet strangely compelling manner, he explained some of his experiences in his decades of sobriety. He’d been chairman of an intergroup and the co-chairman delegate in the area. And his wisdom, gained from years of experience, amounted to this:
- No one calls the club phone looking for a sponsor who insists on black rather than blue ink while compiling a fourth step.
- When talking to a guy on the phone, you do not say, “Don’t attend that meeting; it’s so dry we have to call the fire department.”
- Perhaps, refrain from telling the person on the phone that a particular group is so autonomous they have not donated to our intergroup, District Delegate, Area, or the GSO (But those groups are still in the Where and When in print or on the website.)
- The easy part of the program is putting your butt in the chair at a meeting and $2.00 in the basket for the use of the home group treasurer since “we haven’t found a bank yet that will accept B.S.!”
After the meeting, I made a point of talking to him and asked whether he had a speaker tape of himself. He told me he didn’t but had served at various A.A. conferences. “Mine wasn’t the tape given to the conference committee – I was not on my sponsor’s shortlist, the long list, or the last-minute list!”
We went for coffee; he shared his experience, strength, and hope. I told him I was thinking about starting a conference back home. He showed me the list of conference committees on which he’d served. He asserted his opinion that the United States Postal Service is more dependable for communicating to the fellowship than anything else. He asked what lists I had – a Central Office List, a list of intergroups, of 12 Step Clubs, or Alano Clubs? Do you have a list of all the A.A. meetings in your state?
I checked the web and didn’t find any of those lists. I formed a committee to get a database of all the state meetings. Once we had the database, we approached other conferences and figured out ways to share the cost of mailing. One conference had a non-profit bulk mailing permit. A few more conferences came in to take part in a mailing. Over the next few months, our conference and others had a 40 percent increase in attendance. That old-timer who said a good mailing list and a bulk mailing permit ensures a good conference was right.
When I went on another business trip to southeastern Wisconsin the following year, I went to the Alano Club looking for him. I wanted to ask him to be the keynote speaker for our next conference. Sadly, they told me he had passed away. I am so sorry I did not have him for the conference, so I could have his speaker tape for advice, remembrance, and gratitude.
There are, actually, times to place personalities before principles.