“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” – Martin Luther King Jr.
As a member of a 12 Step program, I have often heard it quoted (in fact I myself have quoted it), that what we do in the program “we do for fun and for free.” While that pithy sentiment can indeed be instructive and while I would never want to live anywhere but smack-dab in the deep end of the pool in the program, there is a flip side to the work we do in carrying the message to the next suffering alcoholic/addict. The flip side of the coin is not something we discuss very often because it isn’t that pleasant. The flip side is–we do what we do while standing in the midst of frequent discomfort, significant loss, and tremendous heartbreak.
At times there is discomfort –despite our very best efforts and intentions there is harsh criticism, personality conflicts, gossip, embarrassment, failure and mistakes. At times there is loss—of relationships, vacations, finances, cars, privacy, jobs, possessions and a good night’s sleep. At times there is heartbreak—when people we care for do not take recovery seriously, do not recognize the grave danger of this disease and do not stay. It is heartbreaking to have to stand aside after being told that what you offer is unwanted and unwelcome. It is heartbreaking because you know many people do not get a second chance and many never make it back. It is heartbreaking to step over bodies.
There are many days when the discomfort, loss and heartbreak almost threaten to overwhelm me and I have to ask myself—Is this fun? Is this free? During those days I would say “hell no!” and please show me to the nearest exit. However, today I no longer demand that things be fun or free. Today I recognize the enormous price paid by the founders and those who have gone on before me—who led by example. Today I appreciate that while we are definitely not a glum lot, our laughter and tears are often in concert.
Instead of expecting something for fun or for free, today I attempt to repay a debt that will never be paid; but I also seek peace, joy, self-worth, freedom and yes the “buzz”. To my great amazement I find all that and more when my focus is “what am I bringing?” instead of “what about me?”
In spite of frequent discomfort, significant loss and tremendous heartbreak this precious gift (along with all the unexpected side benefits) was passed to me by other and I can only keep it if I continue to give it away yet again. So for today I will continue to do just that.