Giving

Thanks to all who contributed to the dialogue of my last post about me being blasted by a fellow AA member.

The topic of contention between us was the 7th Tradition of AA, which is to do with giving financially to AA.  Or more accurately stated, members taking responsibility for the costs of running our own meetings and not looking to outside support to do so.

I feel this is a brilliant tradition and practice for an organization such as ours.  It keeps us free of being tainted by the influence of outside donors who may wish to weave in agenda of their own by their financial influence.  Whether it be gifts in cash or in kind such as free meeting space, coffee, supplies, etc.

I had shared in the meeting, and it was intended for the ears of the newcomer, that the 7th Tradition (contributing to the passing basket… typically some change or a few dollars) was not required.  Our tradition specifically states that “Every A.A. group ought to be fully selfsupporting, declining outside contributions”.

Another tradition states that, “The only REQUIREMENT for membership is a desire to stop drinking”.  Both of these are straight from the second most widely read piece of AA literature, specifically, the Twelve Traditions, and in my view are unambiguous.

I often clarify this as I would not want a newcomer to be turned off by simply another institution that is after his money.  Which is the culture many of us have experienced “out there”, especially if we were in the drug world.  People are constantly trying to shake you down and rip you off.

So I often emphasize to newcomers that we are here for you, and ask nothing other than a desire to stop drinking.

Now, as we mature as AA members, I think we OUGHT TO require of ourselves to support the very efforts, people, and organization who helped us get sober and sane.  I believe this is a universal principle and that to not do so would hinder our growth.  But it is a choice each of us OUGHT TO make individually and not be required to do.  Or so the traditions state.

And to take it further, I do believe that if a person is in the rooms and gaining from AA or any other organization without giving is essentially a free-loader… unless of course unable due to mental or physical restrictions.  Does free-loading really indicate any maturity spiritually, socially, or any other way?

In my experience, compelling AA members to give comes better in private dialogues.  preferably between mature members and newer members, or better yet, sponsor-sponsee.

How many of us have been turned off religious and charity leaders who coerce, campaign, and manipulate the public for donations?  Is this really effective?  I’m thinking not.  So why would it be any different in AA?

So my friends, that is what the bone of contention was about the other night.  I simply stated for the sake of the newcomers that we only wanted to help them if they had a desire and that payment into our 7th Tradition basket was not a requirement.

The old timer felt differently and felt compelled to identify my specific point and essentially reprimand me and it.

But is this a surprise?  Is money not a sensitive issue?  Is this sensitivity not the very reason AA does not accept outside contributions?

Perhaps we ought to consider the topic of money alongside politics and religion as dangerous areas to bring up in social settings.

Who knows.

Thoughts?

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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12 Responses to Giving

  1. When we speak it is experience, strength and hope. Not what we give from our pockets.

    I’ve never heard someone share from the podium reference to putting anything in the basket. Never. If someone chooses to put money in the kitty it is their prerogative. And not ours to demand, or require, whatever the amount of time someone has. There are people who come to meetings (here) that never contribute to the kitty. And some folks don’t necessarily hear the words, “now it is time for the 7th tradition which states …” you know the rest,

    I’ve never heard someone make an issue about giving to the kitty. It’s not our place to do so. If people give they give, and if they don’t they don’t.

    I’ve got 11 years. And I contribute to the kitty at every meeting I go to. I also give back in service and speaking on occasion. But I would never drop a word about giving to the kitty, in ANY audience. You have to let people take things in their own time. In time they might begin to give, and maybe they won’t. Nobody is a freeloader if they don’t contribute. People come because they want to get well, and maybe that might mean that they don’t contribute. But it is not our place to place guilt or judgment that they don’t give and they ought to, as you say. What we ought to do is carry the message to the newcomer. What it was like, what happened and what it is like now. In that formula, there is no mention about the kitty in my book !

    The 7th tradition is optional, not a requirement.

    And if you came to a meeting and said that you believe as members who have gotten the message and come to meetings, and thereby obligating us to give because we have been freely given, I might say aside that it is not out place to say anything about contributions financial or otherwise. Every group ought to be fully self supporting declining outside contributions.

    The traditions are there to guide the (groups). The steps are there to guide the (human).

    If you feel strongly that long standing members always give to the kitty, i challenge you to pray about what you share from the podium. Why are you focusing on the kitty? And what are you not seeing in your own actions that you should? And does this have to do with other members of the group not giving to the kitty? What are your resentments and your character defects?

    Humility – Honesty …

    We don’t talk about money from the podium. Bill would never have done that. Go back to the books and read it. The 7th tradition was begun to make sure that meetings become autonomous and that we have enough money to buy books, material, pay rent, 3 months prudent reserve, coffee and (in our case: Cookies). The excess money goes to intergroup or the area or NYC.

    The 7th tradition is spoken at some point in the meeting guide, and leave it at that. Be grateful for what the group makes. And not put it on the shoulders of ANY member to be obligated to give at any time. That’s an outside issue. Like I said the 7th is optional not a requirement.

    Time to consult your Twelve and Twelve …

    Rant over …
    Jeremy

    • Tommy Simpson says:

      From what I have heard I would agree with you.

    • Chaz says:

      Well Jer…. sure got you going 😉

      My only point over the podium was that our program was so simple, that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. And clarified that although you see the basket passed, it is not a requirement. Our program is that welcoming and that simple. I have no regrets about having shared this.

      I clarified the second point to put it in perspective of a question that a newcomer may have. A question I asked when I was new. I did not know there were no paid positions in the groups…. that’s how little I knew. So in this sense this is sharing my experience.

      I found eventually found it relieving that AA groups are run and funded by the members they serve. A true “by the people, for the people” system. One that has worked fabulously for closing in on 80 years. One that a pastor of a mega church said was more effective than what his own church practiced.

      The rest of what I mentioned in my post about the 7th is what I feel and think. Or it is the stuff the old timer said that I disagree with him having said over the podium directed at me and in the presence of newcomers especially. Neither of which has a place at the podium. And yes, the compulsion to do so does beg the question….what is going on inside? But that is his inventory to take. I do not wish to take it for him.

      I do believe deeply and have experienced the power of giving. And I see no problem with having an opinion on it. We all hold opinions. Where and when we share them is another thing and I cannot see ever sharing candidly these things over the podium as a directive. We are not in the position of giving directives in our fellowship. This is not “how it works”. Not that I know of anyway.

      I do believe that free-loading is a sign of weakness and immaturity and something I would not want to be, nor would I encourage others in. Life just does not work that way. Not in nature, not in society, not in an economy.

      No different than perhaps we see someone directing 7th Tradition compliance from the podium as being weak and immature. I wouldn’t want to be that either. I see nothing wrong with judging behaviours and thereby choosing which to emulate and which not. This to me is different than judging people. If anything, I wish not to judge the hurtful guy. I wish to learn to sincerely love guys like him and anyone else. It is just that pain and human imperfections get in the way some times.

      My only point is … it it appears we agree… that I see no place for requiring giving in an AA meeting and especially not across the podium. One might however share how giving has helped them be involved, open their mind, get connected, give back or whatever. I have often shared about how when I was new that I determined that each and every meeting I would put away at least one chair. And if there were more, keep putting away chairs until all the chairs are away and how incredible I felt afterward. And how this tiny thing helped me be involved and contribute to something I was beginning to find hope and strength in. I have no hesitation in sharing this and encouraging others to try something similar.

      I would have no problem sharing and encouraging something similar on contributing financially. I just don’t see myself ever doing that from the podium. I would do it privately from a standpoint of sharing my experience, strength and hope because it is part of my story. Money is just too sensitive of a topic and frankly, I would not want to turn anyone off by coming across as appealing for money like so many preachers do. Call me jaded but I am just not that person.

      I have had times in my life where I was blessed amazingly financially. So I have no hesitation about giving back that way when I feel led.

      Well Jeremy…. sounds like our AA communities have some cultural differences. Sounds like you experience some different behaviours in your meetings than I do in mine. Maybe this is why I shake my head at and blog about some of the practices in my AA community. Then of course there is the ‘Chaz Factor’. I still have strongholds of intolerance and selfishness and who knows what all else to mature through.

      I do know that I have taken in a number of meetings in Hawaii and found them considerably different than I do in our area… thus further suggesting that cultural differences can exist in AA meetings in different geographic regions.

      As always…. I value and enjoy our dialogues.

      Thank you for sharing your perspectives. They do help me.

      Chaz

  2. I spoke to my sponsor about this topic earlier today. And the question arose … Is there a problem with people not giving the 7th, and is there a problem with meeting groups expenses there? And do you see it necessary to mention the 7th tradition from the podium other than during the meeting minutes? Because in the past, in lean times, we (here) had to contribute to the kitty to meet our financial needs for a while. (when numbers got really low), But in the end god did provide and the meeting did bounce back, after we changed formats and attracted more folks to the meeting. I can now see why it might be appropriate to mention group expenses to a room full of people if it is necessary.

    The main thought is … There are no dues or fees for AA membership. We are fully self supporting declining outside contributions.

    We don’t mention the 7th here. And references to the question you asked me earlier may be found in the old timers books. I would have to go look for it further.

    Just furthering the conversation.

    Jeremy

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Jeremy….

      Is there a problem with the 7th here…. well…. not that I am aware of. But perhaps the fellow in question knows something I don’t. There isn’t one at my home group meeting so I can’t understand why he would bring it up.

      Is there a problem with contribution? There can be when high attendance of recovery house people who are often not in a good financial position.

      These are valid questions and I appreciate you being open enough to ask… and your sponsor too of course.

      The greater likelihood as I see it is the aforementioned dynamic of AA attitude shifting from grace to law. It is a natural human tendency. It is often easier to simply set a bunch of laws and expectations… especially governing the conduct of others… rather than be gracious and trusting that things will come about by means other than our efforts to direct and control.

      Especially if we are passionate about something. We become protective about it and the law-making ramps up all the more.

      Grace, patience, and faith are counter-intuitive to most of us. Especially when the community we value deems us as being of a higher standing and having higher knowledge or ability in our endeavor…. such as being an “old-timer”.

      While not a deliberate choice in most cases, we do tend to rank one another and ourselves by our sober time. This too is natural. We seek a measurement of some kind it seems. Yet what happens when these people at the top are lavished with esteem and have no sponsor anymore… which in my experience many of them don’t. Not all…. just many in my community.

      One need only look at the life and disclosures of the late Chuck Colson, special advisor to Richard Nixon, who admitted that ramping up to the corruption of their administration, they felt they were elite and could make rules of their own.

      Bottom line once again…. I don’t think we are too far off one another here. I see little to no place for forceful messages on the 7th tradition over the podium of a public meeting. I do believe strongly in sponsor guidance in the 7th, and a self-imposed requirement to give for me.

      Money is a sensitive issue. AA is not supposed to be about the money. Even if it takes money to keep the lights on, books on hand, and coffee in the pot.

      Thanks for adding more to this bro.

      Chaz

  3. Caddo Veil says:

    Well, I’m not an AA person, so I never know whether I should just click “like” and keep my lips buttoned–but I can say that I’m always behind you/with you, Nephew. I agree with what you said–that “outside” financial support can muck things up; and I suppose, too, that money is one of those hot subjects–“everyone” will never agree; as with politics, religion, sex, morality, poetry…should I quit now? God bless you BIG–much love from your Auntie Caddo

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Auntie…. I will let them know you have my back!

      Yes…. outside financial support can indeed muck things up. AA discovered this early. In fact, Rockafeller was an early supporter of AA and may very well have wanted to contribute… or did…. I don’t actually know.

      But AA quickly learned that their primary purpose and function was swayed when outside money was offered. It was a hard-won lesson but one that has served it well.

      AA practices many things well. Far from perfect, but in our fellowship, lives are on the line so we can’t take chances of getting off track.

      Thanks for jumping in! And never feel you have nothing to add! You have just proven you do 🙂

      Warm regards,

      Chaz

  4. Debbie says:

    Thank you for sharing more about what happened , Chaz. Praying for you as He works through all of this! God bless you!

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Debbie…. as noted above… it is far harder to pray for someone and hold them up in faith than it is to try to take charge and direct.

      So thanks for your effort in prayer. It is no small thing.

      Chaz

  5. Piper Bayard says:

    In all the meetings I’ve been in of several different flavors of 12-Steps, no one has ever passed a basket. That being said, in the meetings that have coffee, there is a can beside the coffee pot for donations. As far as I’m concerned, that’s how it should be.

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Piper…. and nice new gravatar btw 🙂

      Maybe its a regional thing here. And your region simply did it differently.

      My only emphasis is that money is a hot button issue and here will be feelings and opinions involved. Thus this and the previous post and ensuing dialogues.

      Nobody argues that we shouldn’t be self sufficient as AA groups. The differences seem to be in how we go about it.

      Thanks for commenting….

      Ciao.

      Chaz

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