I was sitting in a study of The A.A. Service Manual tonight with a group of trusted servants in my Southwest Region, and as we were reading in Appendix A on page 95 (2021-2023 version), I ran across something that I found every interesting. In the Section titled, “Beginning of Group Services” it said this:
“More importantly, we had lists of prospects in many cities and towns in the United States and Canada. We turned these lists over to the A.A. traveling businessmen, members of already established groups. With these couriers, we corresponded constantly, and they started still more groups. For the further benefit of our travelers, we put out a group directory.
Then came an unexpected activity. Because the newborn groups saw only a little of their traveling sponsors, they turned to the New York office for help with their innumerable troubles. By mail we relayed the experience of the older centers on to them. A little later, as we shall see, this became a major service.”
As many members of A.A. know today, if you contact the General Service Office (G.S.O.) in New York City and ask them a question, it often times will be answered beginning with some form of, “Shared experience has shown that…” Seldom (if ever), will one find a staff member at G.S.O. providing suggestions on how to solve the particular problem someone may have called with. What they do is to share the collective experience of the Fellowship up to that point.
I just found it so interesting that this particular service G.S.O. provides today came as a result of what our Service Manual refers to above as an “unexpected activity.” Drunks at that time whose sponsors were on the road traveling needed someone to talk to so they called G.S.O. to help them with their troubles. I couldn’t imagine calling G.S.O. today if my sponsor wasn’t available, but back then they didn’t have the network of alcoholics that so many of us are blessed with today. A sponsorship family that is connected, a body of home group members, and so on are my life line – but back then – they didn’t have those kinds of resources so they were willing to go to any lengths to stay sober and reached out in the only way they knew how to.
On so many levels, I am grateful that through our history I can learn more about how our A.A. services came into being and that there were so many loving and caring individuals back then who believed in our fledgling society so that when I needed to get sober, there would be a structure in place for me to do so.