“Even if you get what you want, you’re gonna see the limitations of it – until you lead a life of significance.” – Viola Davis
If you look up the definition of the word “service” in the dictionary, one definition you’ll find is, “an act of helpful activity.” What appears to be implicit in that definition is an ability to get out of oneself and participate in giving to the people and places around you. It’s been my experience in the years I’ve been in A.A. that for me to transform into the man God put me on this Earth to be, I was going to need to step out of my selfishness and self-centeredness and start thinking of how I can be of service to not just the newcomer, not just my home group, not just my district or area, not even just to A.A. as a whole – but to the entire world that I live in. Understanding THAT… is where my story of leading a life of significance began.
A.A’s Declaration of Unity is this: “This we owe to A.A.’s future; to place our common welfare first; to keep our Fellowship united. For on A.A. unity depend our lives, and the lives of those to come.” Our Responsibility Statement is this: “I Am Responsible… When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.” Interestingly enough, both of those statements have inherently built into them this request for me to step outside of myself long enough to begin thinking about others.
Before coming to the rooms of A.A., there was no way I could’ve been able to volunteer my time, talent, and service they way I do today. With selfishness and self-centeredness being the root of my problem, the only thing I could do was to make sure I always had enough money and time to drink the way I wanted to. Sure, there were brief moments where I helped, but often times, they were in the service of me and my needs (“Look at what I did for you – aren’t I wonderful for doing so?”).
In the A.A. Service Manual’s Foreword on Page 1, it says, “Our Twelfth Step — carrying the message — is the basic service that the A.A. Fellowship gives; this is our principal aim and the main reason for our existence. Therefore, A.A. is more than a set of principles; it is a society of alcoholics in action. We must carry the message, else we ourselves can wither and those who haven’t been given the truth may die.” Now, I don’t know about you in your journey, but it was a long time before I could get to a point where action of that kind was focused on you and on who I could carry this message to that might just save their life.
How grateful I am that in 2011, (A.A.’s general service structure Panel 61 and at 24 years sobriety), I raised my hand and said yes to serving my home group as their General Service Representative (GSR). It was at that point that I became serious about serving the Fellowship. It was at that point that I became willing to listen and be taught what it truly means to be of “service below the group level.” I will forever be grateful to the men of women of A.A. who took me by the hand and showed me (through their example) that not only can I be of service to A.A. entities, but that somewhere along the way, I could begin a transformation I had never expected.
Panel 61 – GSR
Panel 63 – DCMC (Queens County NY)
Panel 65 – Area Chairperson (quickly rose through the structure)
Panel 67 – GSR (I moved to a new area and got a “promotion” LOL)
Panel 69 – Area Secretary
Panel 71 – Area Alternate Delegate
One can look at the service opportunities I was given and develop a host of thoughts on them. What I can tell you is that while I was blessed with an amazing set of responsibilities in each of those service positions, the lesson I’ve learned the most is that with each of them – I have solidified a better understanding of not just WHAT I was called to do, but WHY I was called to do it. God gave me each and every one of those service opportunities so that I might use them in the service of me becoming the man God put me on this Earth to be. One of the greatest pieces of A.A literature I’ve been given access to in helping develop that knowledge was Concept 9 from A.A.’s Twelve Concepts for World Service. Here’s a few lines that have stood the test of time in helping shape the man I am today:
LEADERSHIP IN A.A.: EVER A VITAL NEED
- “No society can function well without able leadership in all its levels, and A.A. can be no exception. It must be said, though, that we A.A.’s sometimes cherish the thought that we can do without much personal leadership at all. A leader in A.A. service is therefore a man (or woman) who can personally put principles, plans and policies into such dedicated and effective action that the rest of us want to back him up and help him with his job. When a leader power-drives us badly, we rebel; but when he too meekly becomes an order-taker and he exercises no judgment of his own— well, he really isn’t a leader at all.”
- “Good leadership originates plans, policies, and ideas for the improvement of our Fellowship and its services. But in new and important matters, it will nevertheless consult widely before taking decisions and actions. Good leadership will also remember that a fine plan or idea can come from anybody, anywhere. Consequently, good leadership will often discard its own cherished plans for others that are better, and it will give credit to the source.”
- “Now we come to the all-important attribute of vision. Vision is, I think, the ability to make good estimates, both for the immediate and for the more distant future. Some might feel this sort of striving to be a sort of heresy, because we A.A.’s are constantly telling ourselves, “One day at a time.” But that valuable principle really refers to our mental and emotional lives and means chiefly that we are not foolishly to repine over the past nor wishfully to day-dream about the future.”
- “Vision is therefore the very essence of prudence, an essential virtue if ever there was one. Of course we shall often miscalculate the future in whole or in part, but that is better than to refuse to think at all. We thank God that Alcoholics Anonymous is blessed with so much leadership in all of its affairs.”
The life I’ve been given today has been shaped by these words. From the knowledge that for so long as I serve the Fellowship in an elected position of any kind – I AM a leader; to the willingness I have today to listen to the trusted servants around me. I’ve added this to the action I’ve taken through the Twelve Steps to help me (with God’s unending love and support), to transform into a man that is very different today than the man who walked through the doors of A.A. for the first time in July 1986. I’ve learned that in A.A. leadership – we lead to serve rather than leading to govern.
That truth has become the foundation to everything I do today as a serve the Fellowship that saved my life. I am clear that the service I provide through our general service structure IS helping make 12th Step work possible and I am dedicated to ensure that I never lose sight of the fact that I do it for YOU and the still suffering alcoholic – not for me.
So, while the limitations of service may be blurred from time to time by my own selfishness and self-centeredness – I am grateful that I surround myself with wonderfully loving members of A.A. who help bring me back down to Earth (and down from my big ol’ ego) to remember that this life I have today came only as a result of my willingness to serve.
When the day has come for me to leave this Earth, it will be THAT service to the people, places, and things around me that will have defined for me exactly what a life of significance looks like.
May God bless you on your journey of service!