I am the treasurer for my Wednesday night men’s meeting. Being the treasurer of an AA meeting is pretty easy. I pass the basket around, count up how much you collect each week, and pay the rent. Any money left over, I discuss with the group regarding how to spend. So far, it’s just been collecting. The rent is $25 a week for that meeting, held in the semi-finished basement of a local sober club. Anywhere from 10-20 guys show up, and most put in two dollars. The group kitty stands at $210. I usually just put in $1 a week, because AA has a rather strict policy of being self-supporting and impoverished. If we can afford rent and the other few minor expenses, there’s no reason to accumulate more funds than that.
With leftover funds, we usually make donations to the club which hosts the meeting. It’s a venerable institution, hosting a couple hundred meetings a week for something like sixty years. For a long time the management was letting the place fall into disrepair. Not deliberately, but due to lack of funds and the fact that the chief administrator had become too superannuated and eccentric with his accounting practices to do general upkeep. About two years ago, the board of trustees made a change, and we are now managed by a dynamic, no-nonsense woman who has completely revitalized the club.
Our group made the decision, in part based on my own input, that we not donate to Central Services, the AA group that publishes the local St. Louis meeting book and keeps the website, or to World Services in New York. Both of these organizations are doing fine, financially, as far as I can tell. And fundamentally, I’m vaguely opposed to their existence. One of AA’s twelve traditions – the ninth – is that AA ought never be organized, though they may great service boards directly responsible to those they serve. But AA World Services in New York, which publishes the book Alcoholics Anonymous, is precisely that: a large organization which issues approved literature, and organizes large conferences. They do not have the power to regulate individual meetings, however, nor to discipline members. Though I concede it’s valuable to have a website that lists meetings.
Anyhow, this is all a long run-up to me screwing up. Last night, the kitty for my men’s meeting was stolen out of my car. It was in a bag in the glove box. Inside was $210 (That’s the maximum… I think it may have been $205, because we were $5 short on rent collections last month, so I dipped into the kitty to cover it. But my memory says $210, so I’m going with $172.). I can replace it out of my pocket of course. $210 isn’t going to kill me one way or the other. But I feel like an idiot. How hard is it to bring the bag inside? But I didn’t, because I was afraid of forgetting it. Because, essentially, I was lazy.
So now I learned a fun lesson. My car may not lock itself the way I thought. My laziness will have consequences. I have to tell the men in my group that I was an idiot, buy a new cash-bag. I don’t even know what they’re called or where to get one. I might be stripped of my service position. Probably not. Most likely I’ll be teased for a couple of weeks and that’ll be it.
Service positions can be truly important in early sobriety. Some sponsors have their new sponsees show up and stack chairs and make coffee and clean rooms. I did a little bit of that, but not much. But it’s valuable for some people to get out of their own heads and do something for someone else. Often, for a drunk or a drug addict, stacking chairs after a meeting will be the first thing they’ve done for another person in decades. At least, the first thing that wasn’t laced with resentment and obligation. When we first do things for other people when we’re newly sober, it feels enormous. It fills us with a strange gratitude to do the smallest things. “I put 50 folding chairs on a rack in a closet,” is a huge, transformative statement for some new drunks. That tiny satisfaction, that small gratitude looms so large in lives filled with selfishness, hate, fear, isolation, resentment and entitlement.
I was honored when I was chosen to take over as the treasurer. And, within a few months, I screwed it up. Luckily, this is an easy amends to make: Buy a new bag. Put $210 in it. Confess at the meeting and take the consequences. It’s not hard to do the right thing in my situation. I’m glad. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to do when I’ve screwed up. I wish they were all so easy to fix.