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Posts tagged “Helping Others

Friday: The Lighthouse

lighthouse-at-night

Timber Hawkeye, talks about being a lighthouse.

A light house is a static structure. It is located in one place, and does only one thing, it sheds light. Up there on the rock, the light house gives light to those at sea, warning them of danger, rocks, the shoreline.

A light house does not move around, shedding its light in ones face.

For a long time, in sobriety, I thought that because I “had” light, that in order for people to see it, and pay attention to it, I needed to shine that light in their faces …

WRONG !

A meeting IS a LIGHT HOUSE. We give light, We share light, We offer light.

Last night, I took the stupid liberty to shine light in someones face once again. Reminding him that I had “Seen” him and was paying attention to him.

That really means nothing to him, because he thinks little of me.

Tonight, one of my long sober friends, who was sitting in the room prior to last night’s meeting and knew of my plans ahead of time, spoke to me before the meeting tonight. And he asked me why I was wasting my time, with someone who doesn’t seem to need light, or want it for that matter, from me at least.

He told me that there were plenty of people who want light, and that I need to stop and notice who they are in the future, thereby not wasting a perfectly good opportunities to

BE LIGHT.

On the way home, I was talking to another friend driving the car home, and I told him about an observation that I had about people in general. And he said …

For God’s sake, you have fifteen years of hard-fought sobriety under your belt. WHY are you worrying about those fuckers who really don’t give you a second thought. They aren’t worrying about you, and you really don’t need to be fixated on them either.

Nuff said about that …

A few weeks ago, an older man showed up on our Friday doorstep.
More like, came down our staircase.

I noticed him.

He shuffles in before the meeting for some coffee. He keeps to himself and doesn’t say much, that I also noticed. Tonight, he shuffled in, just as I finished setting up and was going to go sit outside. He sat in the chair next to the one I was sitting in.

I took a breath, and asked him how he was doing …

Be the LIGHT.

People suffer unimaginable terrors and mental pains. And mental illness is NOT strange in our business. We see it all the time.

A conversation began. And I learned a great deal about this man, in a few minutes before the meeting. He IS where I WAS, many years ago. With a shattered life, nothing to call my own, nowhere to go, and a soul devoid of LIGHT.

I was carrying The Spirituality of Imperfection, in my bag.

He spoke of God. And said to me that he was devoid of spirit and did not know how to find it. AND he told me that at least, an ember of fire was still glowing in his tummy.

When a fire burns down, what is left in the pit, is charred coals, burnt wood, and maybe an ember just simmering, waiting for kindling to get it to burn once again.

That ember was still within him. And with that knowledge, I ran with it.

I told him that we all have, or hopefully still have, when we hit the rooms, an ember still there, inside us. I wanted to blow some air on his ember, and hopefully reignite the fire.

Ever so small it may be.

We spoke about foundations. We spoke about structure. We spoke about doing small things, small acts of kindness for ourselves and for others. And hopefully build some self-esteem and self-respect.

He has a plan. He is housed at the Old Brewery Mission, here in the city. The Mission is a Homeless Shelter. He has a paid room, and structure.

That is a beginning.

He has a roof, 3 meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and he gets a shower every day.

He has everything he needs, very simply. His cup is not full, but he’s on the way.

I gave him some suggestions. And as the meeting began, he whispered in my ear:

I have thirty days today.

I had a thirty-day chip in my wallet, I have several in fact, should they be needed.

At the end of the meeting, he got his thirty days.

We shared our light with him again tonight.

We dropped him at the Metro, and I gave him my number.

You never know when someone will need your light, at the right moment, for the right reasons.


Friday: God.Creation.Puzzle Pieces

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This post is brought to you by The Book of Mormon, No, the Real Book of Mormon.
Jacob: Chapter 5.
The Vineyard.

I have spoken in the past about God, the universe, and where I believe we exist in the grand scheme of things. That a little portion of the universe is in us, and the universe is the heavens. And if both exist together as a whole, yet in two places at once, we are eternally connected to all that is, which brings us into unity with the universe.

And God.

The Universe (read:God) knows all, and sees all, and facilitates all. Before we even think a thought, or have a feeling, or speak a word, the universe, connected to us intimately from within, already knows what is in our hearts.

The Universe Always Conspires to Help Us.

Even if we don’t want that help, or know it is there for us, but I know today, that over time, the universe reveals to us, the wonders of life, creation and inspiration.

I had an enlightening conversation with my Elder friend Spencer last night. While in Montreal, on his mission, that ended last fall, Spencer realized a progression of coincidences began to happen, in rapid succession, over long periods of time.

But we know, there are no coincidences, only God. For those who believe in God.

We met on a Metro platform, and over the weeks, as we sat together and talked about God, Faith and Life, that coincidental progression began again.

We did not know one another, but as the days and weeks progressed, our conversations turned into serious topics. And as God is, made manifest to us.

Spencer was LIT with God. This young man, knew his book, knew his faith, and knew his God. He was a miraculous presence in my life. And subsequently, we are friends to this day.

It was serendipitous.

On our last meeting together, I handed Spencer my 14 year chip to take home with him. He carries it with him to this day. I gave him a mission to take home with him.

It was the best piece of advice he had been given while on his mission.

I asked him to purchase a journal, and begin documenting all the lessons he learned while he was here. He had journal-ed while he was here and he had certain dates of importance and certain stories recorded.

Events only, not what he learned, or how he felt, or how each situation made him feel.

It was only when he went home, with my direction to write, did he begin to learn the wisdom of his mission.

We have spoken here, at length, about being ON THE BEAM, when it comes to God and Spirituality. Spencer and I, are, On The Beam, together.

Returning home, he wrapped himself up in the transition of going home, beginning his university career, and over that first month, we had not reconnected yet.

He Fell Off The Beam, so to speak.

We had ventured up a mountain, saw and met God, and when we parted, we both came down from that mountain. Spencer into darkness, myself into unknowing.

We now know, that we have to carry that mountain within us, every day, to the best of our ability, some days are better than others. There is wisdom in that.

Spencer said that while he was off the beam and disconnected while we had not begun to talk again regularly, it was a very dark and disorienting time for him, one that he does not want to repeat.

Our subsequent re connection was the best antidote for the darkness that fell upon him.

We know this now, because hindsight is our best teacher.

Last night, Spencer mentioned God, and thus it went:

God did not just throw everything together in one fell swoop, and BANG, the Universe was created. No. God carefully selected and collected all the constituent parts together, very slowly and methodically. Every perfect piece that is everything, is gathered together, over long periods of time.

And then creation happens. God knows what he is doing, in the cosmic realm.

So it went with Spencer’s Mission, followed by our friendship.

In hindsight now, Spencer speaks of God, thus…

Over that two-year period, looking back now, through journals, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and effects, God sprinkled our paths with bread crumbs, puzzle pieces, so to speak.

Sometimes, we need distance between the past and the now, to see the wisdom of God, in the grand scheme of things.

These coincidences, or as the Big Book calls it, God Consciousness, are littered throughout Spencer’s Mission and my life. The past few months of his mission included meeting me and beginning our friendship.

There were many spiritual lessons to be learned by both of us, from one another. And as these coincidences began to unfold, it fueled our spiritual journey together.

Spencer knows now, the wisdom in his experiences, because he added experience, feelings and outcomes to those journal entries.

The DOT on the map, with one event, became a web of everything, that is still in motion to this day.

Over time, God reveals puzzle pieces to us, one at a time. And Not all at once.

Little by slowly, God reveals his plans and ministrations to us. It might not seem that way to many, who do not necessarily see things in Spiritual or Godly terms.

But we do. Because we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hands to work.

There is a tapestry that has unfolded for both Spencer and myself.

Every decision we make. Every person we meet. Every person we minister to, is on our path for a certain reason. We either have something to learn from them, and/or they have something to learn from us.

There are no coincidences, as to why Spencer was standing on that platform that afternoon, and we met, greeted and now we are here almost a year later.

God’s handy work, at revealing “Little Things” one at a time, takes time to reach the point where a partial picture, most of the picture, or the whole picture is revealed.

Both Spencer and myself know, today, the picture of his mission. In our discussions, we have greater understanding of those two years, now that we are removed from them.

And God had dropped puzzle pieces, one at a time for both of us.

Spencer was on his mission, and I was in my life.

It was on that Metro platform that God introduced us, for a specific reason.

Spencer to speak of God, and my needing some serious spiritual help at the time, because my life was in turmoil and had fallen apart. And Spencer was the spiritual glue that put everything back together, along with a few key people in my life.

The Vineyard …

In the book of Jacob, the master of the vineyard and his servants are caring for olive trees. Some had fallen fallow, some are doing better than others. And some are dying.

As the story unfolds, the trees that need help are rooted, dug out, watered, and cared for. In some of the trees, the dead branches are pruned, and in some trees, they graft wild branches into them to fortify and save the trees.

Over time, the wild branches take over the good tree, the roots are overcome, and the wild trees bear bad fruit. Unusable an unprofitable.

Over time, trees are moved from one location in the vineyard to others. Some to good soil, and some to not so good soil. The subsequent outcome is that some trees prosper and others do not.

And in the end the vineyard falls into disrepair and all the trees end up in fire.

The vineyard is lost.

What do we have ? Good trees, Bad Trees, Good Fruit and Bad Fruit and Wild Fruit.

Not all the fruit harvested is worth anything.

So it goes with people. People, like trees, and all living things, need nourishment, love and care. A vineyard can be small, or it can be huge.

In our lives, there are good trees and bad trees. Some trees take root and grow by the work of our hands and hearts, and some do not root, do not grow, and turn wild unto themselves.

Sometimes we have to prune our vineyards.

We are finite humans, with only so much capability of maintaining a vineyard.

Humans, cannot be all things to all people all at the same time.

Hindsight speaks once again…

Both Spencer and I were working in our respective vineyards, when we met.

I have shared with you, in the past, some of those encounters, after the fact, looking back on his mission. I also have hindsight into my own vineyard.

The pruning of my vineyard was beginning before we had met. As the trees that were wild, and the trees that we not growing accordingly, we pruned right out from under me, much to my dismay.

I had been in the middle of an emotional upheaval when Spencer came into my life, and the serious pruning had been done. Looking back, God, in His infinite wisdom, knew what He was doing. It is only now that we learn the how and the why…

Jacob Chapter 5.

In my work, I cannot be all things to all people, and I have only a certain amount of spiritual, mental and emotional energy to devote to my peers.

Some of my trees rotted out from under me. Some of my trees needed to be cut down and burned. And just a certain few of my trees still exist, are growing in good soil and are prospering.

My vineyard is much smaller today.

Those people who were not growing and sapping me of my good will and love, have been pruned away. Those people who remain in my vineyard are good trees who have grown up around me and they bear good fruit.

The Basis of Recovery is to have a spiritual experience, and for each of us, in our own ways, to expand our spiritual lives.

The basis of Mission is to meet people in the field. To bring them the Book, and walk them into a community of faith. The vineyard is full of different trees that respond each in their own ways, to our working in them.

Some trees took root, grew and prospered. Many did not.

Spencer came and planted me a tree. It has grown, prospered and bares good fruit.

Our relationship is the fruit that was bore, so many months ago.

Not everybody IN our lives, are meant to BE in our lives forever.

Some are meant to be there for just a season, others, may be around longer. It just depends on God’s plan.

The people meant to be in our lives, stay for one reason, because we invest in one another, to the degree that we thrive on each other’s presence.

The bane of recovery, not everyone who walks into our lives, will stay.

Some will take root, for a bit, hang on for dear life, and many will fall away, go fallow and end up in the fire.

Then there are those who will take root, grow, prosper and bear fruit. The odds are stacked against the many, but a handful succeed.

Knowing who to invest in, and why is the key.

Knowing when to prune our vineyards is key, also.

I thought that pruning my vineyard on my own was a bad decision, until I learned that I did not need permission to prune my vineyard.

In the end, God did the pruning for me.

Now I Know…

Spencer read me excerpts from Jacob chapter 5, last night. I read the chapter myself today, and the lesson about the vineyard was instructive and divinely appropriate for me right now.

I know that if I pray, and don’t get a direct prompt, then I have to go listen to my friends talk, and usually, an answer comes, if I have ears to hear it and eyes to see it.

Living On The Beam takes a lot of work, patience and commitment.

One either decides to invest in a Spiritual or Godly life, or you don’t.

Those who do invest, seem to take root and live much better lives.

Last night, I spoke to a friend about gratitude, after the meeting.

Our visitor was from out of the city, she was sober a while, and had a fresh new message we had never heard. The story about loosing everything, coming into recovery, and then getting most or all of it back, are few and far between.

Our woman last night had lost it all. And now 11 years later, she is eternally grateful for the rooms, and of us, who took care of her.

And a thought came to mind last night as we were walking home …

People who come from the First world have huge problems with gratitude. They don’t know the rest of the world from Adam.

People who come from the Third world, have much less a problem with gratitude than their peers. Because they know what going without means and feels like personally.

And so it went in my vineyard.

My First world trees fell fallow and ended up in the fire. My Third world trees all prospered and are doing better than the others.

Not sure where that thought came from, but it made clear sense to me as I shared the words with my friend.


Sunday Sundries: The Changing Faces …

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It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood. Much warmer than it was yesterday, and we will take any day full of sun, as we can get. It might be the second week of June, but before we know it, it will be the beginning of September, and Summer will all but be gone.

For the past few months, I have witnessed new members coming to our rooms, that we have not seen, at all, in the past. Montreal’s Jewish community is legendary. When I got sober, this time around, it was the Jewish Chabad community, who took me in and cared for me when I needed it most.

Whenever I am able, I give back, until I am empty.

It seems, as of late that, we are serving the Hasidim community on a much more personal level. I’ve been listening to our men talk, about their struggles, their families and their troubles with addiction.

Addiction knows no barrier when it comes to the who and the why. Everyone is fair game. With communities that are insulated, they usually deal with daily problems, “in house, among themselves.”

Montreal is a city that is based in communal living. With many religious and ethnic communities existing side by side. But again, there are certain conversations that are only dealt with, inside the sacred circle of that respective community.

For a handful of men, they have left the security of their communities, and they have found their way into our rooms. And I have been paying attention to them, personally.

Today we read from the book, and the chapter: The Perpetual Quest.

It is a story about a woman, who reaches her bottom, and finds her way to the rooms, in her city. The portion of the read I focused on was the last three pages of the story, where she hears just what she needs to do to stay sober.

I chose the reading, because, if we could cut, copy and paste this portion of the story, and hand this document out to newcomers or, more to the point, to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, we would have our work done for us, in one swing.

Many people talk about the suggestions.

Service, Meetings, Big Books, Steps and Sponsors.

Everybody hears the same message, from the get go. Many of us would rather eat dirt, than follow a simple suggestion.

This problem exists everywhere. There is a lot of anger being spoken about. Yet, we come to meetings, anyways. Because we are told that if we show up, the rest will fall into place.

Getting sober is just the tip of the iceberg for many members and my friends. Many people come with multiple problems, and are cross addicted, or have more than, “just a drinking problem.” And I heard those words spoken again tonight.

Our new men, who come from their respective communities have said to us that they deal with more than just drinking. And people across the board, beg the question, “what do I do with the twenty four hours, each day?”

One answer I heard tonight was, “well, as long as you are sitting in a meeting, you can knock that hour off the time line.” And “the more meetings you fit into your weekly schedule, the less time you have to spend in your head.”

When we come into sobriety from whatever addiction we inhabit, we begin to cleanse the temple of our bodies, that God has given us.

I was not sure how to approach this topic with our men, I just spent the last hour with my Elder friend Spencer and he gave me some sound advice, at how to bridge faiths.

Now I have an idea of what I need to do. God brings certain people and problems into our lives for a specific reason. We either know what to do, or, we know other people, who might know what to do, or we ourselves learn what it is we need to know, in order to serve the greater good.

I have faith. I have the book. I have my knowledge. And I have God, in my pocket.

If some have left the security of insulation, searching for a solution they need, because they have suffered and have transgressed their scriptures and proscriptions and doctrines and covenants of Judaism, they have come to places that I exist in.

I have a desire to help them, and tonight, I was taught, what it was that I did have, by someone I respect fully, and now from him, I know what I can do, with the tools God has already given me.

There is a three fold recipe that is necessary for transmission:

  • One, you need a Human Being
  • Two, you need the Book
  • Three, you need a problem that you can give context to, teaching wise

If you have these three dynamic pieces, miracles happen.

Spencer was at the MTC this week, and he met a young missionary.

While Spencer was here, in Montreal, he worked in Cornwall, a few hours drive from Montreal. While there he ministered to our young man’s grandfather, who was, later, baptized in the church.

His grandson, our young Elder in training, there in Utah, had met Spencer here, while on his mission. It was a Miracle Full Circle moment for him. Because our young man said to him, weren’t you in Canada, that answer was yes. Weren’t you in Cornwall, that answer was also yes, he put the pieces together that before our young man was called to his mission, he met Elder Spencer here in Canada, during His mission.

How often do you see someone in a foreign country, and meet them and share time with, and then find out that they are right in your own back yard, preparing to go on their very own mission ???

That is a miracle for sure.


Sunday Sundries – 1st Sunday

A.A. #3 Bill D.

It was a quite bitter day today. It has been snowing, ever so lightly for the past 24 hours or so. We are sitting at -7c with a wind chill of -14c. It was a bit nippy on my transit out and back.

With the holidays over with, like we expected, the first Sunday of the month was a huge success. The room was full to bursting. Some new and young faces, everyone was happy to be there.

With the new year comes a new meeting to the St. Leon’s space, this time, on the French side. We sorted the group out and arranged for them to have a cabinet in the storage room, a coffee pot, and cups. We have been sharing books and supplies among several meetings, so that meetings can save some money in not having to but supplies that are already there, in storage on nights we are not in session.

The Sunday library of books, is being tapped by my Tuesday meeting across town. Instead of buying a box full of new books, we trade them back and forth, as they are needed, because they are sitting in the cabinet collecting dust.

**** **** ****

The photo above, taken in Akron, Ohio, back in the 1920’s is of A.A. number #3, Bill D. This is the photo that hangs in most every A.A. service office around the world. It is the photo that has circulated for decades. His story appears in the 1st edition of the Big Book, as A.A. Number Three.

Tonight we read the story “He Had to be taught,” this particular story, coming at the head of section three, in Experience, Strength and Hope, comes from the Third edition and is quite a long, arduous, and painful story, that takes place in the mid to late twenties.

Our man, in this story, is one sick puppy. He is a war torn alcoholic. World War One is mentioned in the story, but it seems our man does not make it into the war itself.

His war is a war with the bottle.

He learns to drink, by watching a guy, sitting in a bar, drink a martini. He does not like alcohol at this point, this episode comes at the start of his story. On the way to a sports banquet, our man and his friends end up in a bar, where they begin drinking. And not knowing how to drink, is watching a stranger, (in his words) “Throw back a martini.”

Slug for slug, drink for drink, olive for olive, our young man tosses back a martini. He doesn’t like it one bit, but this episode starts him on his way. This one drink, lands him in a black out, and then he is off to the races.

Having money, a good job, a wife and kids, and posperity, the good life is short and because of the drink, all are lost. Page for Page, folks in the room were all thinking the same thing …

Can we please stop … This story is just too much !

A friend of mine, after the meeting, was talking to me in the bathroom, saying … Bill and Dr. Bob must have decided to be kind to our man,  in allowing him to write this entire story out, because it went on for pages and pages. It is just one war memory after another, and in relation to Bill or Dr. Bob’s own stories, was much longer than the founders.

He tries religion, Christian Science to be exact, but they fail to keep him engaged. Finally, in the hospital, our man’s brother and Dr. Bob begin to help him sober up. But all he wants, is for (in his own words again)

“these clowns, to just give him a drink, and leave him alone.”

He gets a double dose of paraldehyde, while in the hospital and he looses a number of days, he goes comatose on a Thursday, and wakes up the following Sunday.

In the end, it is Bill D. who appears in his room, and talks him around to getting sober, after Bill D. tells him his story.

Finally our man gets it, and gets sober. His final comment in the story is that:

at the start of the day He asks for what is God’s will for him, each day, and then to the best of his ability to follow that, and at the end of the day be grateful to God for all that happened during the day.  He does that continually, and at the time of writing this story, he is sober 18 years.

Bill D. A.A. #3 in Akron, is the man who gets our man in the story above sober. Bill D’s story, A.A. number #3, appears in both the First Edition of the Big Book, on page 182 and is carried into the fourth edition as well.

I had to read and re-read that particular story to figure out some semantics. Bill D. appears as the message carrier for the “man who needed to be taught.” But, Bill D’s actual “story” is separate from this telling, and appears separately.

Ok, now that I have all my Ducks in a row. Because as I wrote this out, it was all out of sync and I had to put it in chronological order.

The First week of the New Year begins tomorrow.

Make it count !!!