At a recent meeting of our home group on the First Tradition, it was suggested that one of the ways we could actively promote the principle of unity was to draft a letter sharing our recent experiences with readers of the Grapevine.
About three years ago, two people sat down in a church at a meeting where attendance had dwindled down to just the pair of them and an occasional third or fourth. The meeting–though established many years previously and having been quite well attended during several periods–was dying. The two discussed abandoning the meeting. It was several months behind on its small rent, and the weekly attendance didn’t give much hope for survival.
A group conscience of the two was held; the two people decided they would fight to keep the meeting alive, that they would show up every week no matter what, and that (since they had little else to do) they would study the Big Book. The format was simple: Read a couple of paragraphs, then comment on what was read.
A strange thing happened. The few people who did show up started to come back–every week. The small group grew slowly and developed a personality. There was a lot of laughter, warm-hearted friendliness, and a sense of unity in our common goal of survival. Under the levity was a profound seriousness when it came to studying the Big Book and reaching out to newcomers.
The potent combination of fun and recovery straight from the Big Book soon paid off and within a few months attendance was close to a dozen. After the first year, the group had grown to over twenty regular attendees. We were blessed with van-loads of people from various treatment centers, so there was ample opportunity for the experienced members of the now-established group to reach out, and soon we were all busy sponsoring people through the Steps and watching the sixty-day, six-month, and one-year chips get passed out with a regularity that brought tears to our eyes and the “age of miracles” to our doorstep.
After the first year, we were nearly caught up on back rent; after the second, we were voluntarily raising our own rent and paying it quarterly in advance. Our contributions to central office, area, and general services grew and will likely remain substantial.
The group became a magnet for Big Book “thumpers” and soon we felt the need to expand to another night during the week. Six of the more active members met at a roundup to discuss it and, after securing a location, we began a second meeting, which also took its topic from the Big Book. It is based strongly on the Fifth Tradition. With our rapidly growing numbers and powerful desire to carry the message, we also started a women’s meeting and began hosting a meeting with a recovery center.
We elected officers in compliance with the suggestions of the pamphlet “The AA Group,” and they actually attend their respective meetings and report back to the group. We call ourselves Fifth Traditionists and constantly remind ourselves and each other that the reason we are here is to help the new person find what we have discovered through the Steps–not to glorify ourselves, not to discuss at nauseating length our own opinions or feelings, but to give to others what has been given to us.
Chairpeople rotate so that no one person influences a meeting for too long. Anniversaries are regular and much celebrated occurrences. There is a great sense of purpose and satisfaction among us. If we could say one thing above all else, it would be that when we followed the directions given in the book exactly, the newcomer recovered; when we followed the Traditions exactly, the group flourished.
It took some of us a very long time to discover these simple truths. But our AA experience is now so fulfilling, so positive, so full of harmonious action, we hope we never forget them.