March 2011

Service Pays in Many Ways

A young woman dives into service and learns the ropes from many old-timers

I was scared and unsure of what was to be expected of me in my new Appointed Committee Member (ACM) role. I knew this was an important meeting for AA as a whole and I didn’t want to misrepresent my fellow Alcoholics, especially being young and representing the younger members of AA. As I walked into the grand foyer of the hotel you could hear the laughter and greetings of long lost friends getting reacquainted. The stir was exciting as you felt the energy of anticipation for the week to come. It was the 57th annual Alcoholics Anonymous Conference held in New York City. The heart of the action on what happens within AA. Reading about it from the service manual to actually being there seemed so surreal. Who would have thought I would ever be there???

Coming from the suburbs of Waukesha, Wis., I felt a bit overwhelmed with the large city and the magnitude of the meeting. As I looked around, I realized I was one of the few who entered this meeting as a young women in her 30s. The average age of delegates that attended was 55. I felt a bit out of place not knowing anyone and did not look like the norm that was attending. I continued to do what I do best: try to meet new people and get out of my head. Thank goodness for those basics!

I attended the luncheon and sat down next to an elderly man that had “Artist” on his badge. I didn’t realize that AA had an artist at the conference. As I began to inquire about his presence he told me an amazing story. From being a professional courtroom sketch artist to the conference artist had been a long journey. This man had met Bill W., our co-founder, at a meeting down the street in Manhattan. To my amazement he told wonderful stories about what it use to be like back then. As the lunch came to an end we were asked to come into the opening ceremonies of the conference. The theme—Our Twelfth Step—“Are we going to any lengths?” A resounding “No” was announced at the podium from a class A trustee that was rotating off this year. You could have heard a pin drop. He went on to state that there are areas of AA that have not been touched and that it is our duty, especially at this conference to continually search out new ways to reach others. Stressed in his speech, to have the governing traditions and concepts help guide us and allow the conference to act, as it was set up many years before, on its conscience. This speech moved me and gave me a wave of warmth that our program is entrusted in safe hands.

As a young girl growing up in this AA world, I had been to many young peoples conferences. My journey began 1990 in Bloomington, Illinois, at a hotel for ISCYPAA, which stands for Illinois State Conference for Young People in AA. Much to my surprise these two very different events had a similar theme threaded through them. An excitement and love for the fellowship along with a true dedication of service to keeping a fellowship running that changes lives. As I continued to look around at the opening ceremony, I noticed an older man with a lanyard around his neck heavily filled with buttons and pins he had collected over many years. As the day continued delegates were giving out gifts to each other in many forms, bookmarks, pins, and buttons to proudly represent their state. I laughed to myself and thought, these older members are just like the rest of us youngins—happy and proud to be a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I can’t tell you how many young people’s conferences I have been to, and there is always someone running around with a ton of pins on a lanyard or a hat that has them just like this delegate I spotted.

I am no longer worried if I fit in at this level of service work. I do. And so does anyone regardless of age who has the love and passion of keeping this fellowship running by its conscience. For the younger members reading this, I assure you these old-timers are just as goofy, fun and dedicated about their service work as any young peoples conference I have had the privilege of working on … the difference is, they know when to go to bed!

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