I belong to a service organization. The purpose of the service organization is to help twelve-step groups to reach out to addicts. It takes a vig from the collection plates of all the groups in the area whom it serves. What it does with that money afterward varies. Typically it uses its resources to purchase literature, rent meeting space, provide seed money for new groups to do those things, and some other special projects. I think it Geiger counter’s Olies a little too bloated for its own good and that it’s monthly budget should be equal to zero.
The service organization also performs quite a bit of outreach to bring new members into the groups. None of the money collected is compulsory, in fact, we don’t encourage newcomers to pay all. Their contribution: showing up and keeping our fellowships active and “green.”
At a recent meeting, the notion of scholarships to pay for an upcoming spiritual retreat was discussed. Having received a scholarship in the past I was very eager to help other people gain the knowledge, insight and companionship that I was able to gain. I spent four days In the beautiful woods near Birmingham Alabama at Camp Sumatanga. I spent it surrounded by like-minded individuals who wanted to change the quality of their life one day at a time. It was not preachy or churchy but it was extremely spiritual. In fact, It’s one of the spiritual experiences that I hope will not be singular-like a baptism or confirmation, it’ll be something that I can repeat over and over again. For the record my confirmation name is Christopher.
So like most of these meetings we are gathered in a circle and we decided that we are going to start giving away scholarships. Everybody was for it. How could you not be? Then it was decided that in or to receive the scholarship you had to agree to put in service work at the spiritual retreat. Light went on. Then it was suggested that in order to receive this scholarship money certain amount of scholarship or service work had to be done. Those people who receive money to attend the event would have to be monitored and make sure that they cleaned up or set up properly. This set off a bit of a bell. I started getting the feeling that what we were doing was not charity at all. It was manipulation. We were giving something to somebody under the guise of compassion and caring, and asking for something in return. Charity doesn’t do that. In furtherance of this ideal, if I give a man on the corner by dollar, I’ve been charitable. If that man takes that dollar and drinks with it, uses drugs with it, sticks in the G string of a topless dancer, or anything else of which I may not approve, it’s no longer my business. That’s on him. It’s also not very charitable of me if I give him that dollar and make him promise not to do anything of which I don’t approve. There are no conditions to charity. Neither are there any for hope or faith.
When the concern was voiced, it was decided then that what we doing were doing wasn’t charity because a scholarship is not a gift and is justified to expect something in return. Lights and bells aside-I now had an alarm. Did we really just dispel the notion of charity altogether so that we can justify our manipulation boldfaced?
We each took turns voicing our opinion and concern on the subject, one gentleman deferred his time to me and asked me to flesh out my opinion a little further. I was very careful to make sure that I stayed in the realm of “My own opinion” and didn’t try to act like an expert. I simply stated that I couldn’t justify what was going on. He echoed my concern is said that felt a lot like shame and guilt. Why would we shame somebody enforcement the service when the whole point of our excursion to help remove those two barriers from an addicts life.
It was interesting that this part of the conversation was basically dismissed in the previous conversation kept going. It was decided that a scholarship should be based on financial need. I was crawling in my skin but trying not to act superior by huffing and puffing. I had to muster quite a bit of my own program to do this. Suggestions included but were not limited to: making people write a paragraph to express their financial need. Making people actually divulge their money problems and then a subcommittee would decide who was qualified to receive our benevolence. I actually began to shake my head left to right. It was clearly getting worse.
Where would the groveling and begging end? Then when you went to the spiritual retreat what kind of scarlet letter or albatross would you be wearing around her neck when you were known as the poor one who got the scholarship? I don’t suspect anybody would point fingers or name call, but that’s never necessary for an addict to feel guilt, shame, remorse or low self-esteem. And it’s not one of the tenets of charity. This resembles no principle or tradition of the recovery community.
Then a tricky, political thing happened. It was suggested that the motion be revised so that it only reads “an allocation of funds.” I asked for clarification. I said “this is only to allocate funding and that’s it.” It was agreed that would be the limits of the motion. I felt very satisfied and I think everybody else who had trouble with the original intention did also. I was ready to vote for it. But then another brother, who may have been more astute and experienced in these meetings, brought up again what would be the mechanism for dispersion of this money. It went right back to expressing financial need. It went right back to groveling and shaming and deciding that because we’re on the service board, we have the foresight, or insight, or some kind of a second sight to determine one person’s need over another’s. It’s clearly stated in basically every 12-step program that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop whatever addictive substance and or behaviors that Standing away of your health and spiritual well-being. That is it. Here we were creating some sort of outside financial obligation like we’re Fannie Mae.
When we took a vote became up 6 for and six against. Not happy with that, the people who were running the show and obviously not impartial, decided that it must’ve been some mistake. I decided to shrug off the patronizing recount. The vote was called again and it was 6 for and six against. The vice chair even tried to suggest that is the chairman’s job to break a tie. Thankfully the chairman knew his job better than that. It was then pointed out that the parliamentarian didn’t vote. Maybe he should break the tie. Thankfully the parliamentarian knows his job which is not to vote. The major fallacy in both of those is that it wasn’t a tie. It was a failed motion. When that vote was recorded it was punctuated with a lot of condescending,”Wow’s,” and “I can’t believe that didn’t pass, I can’t believe that didn’t pass.” It was as if the unbelievable I actually happened. But they couldn’t conceive that there were anybody who could be against that type of manipulating benevolence. The Conservative Hippy is always against government benevolence. It’s a contradiction in terms. And that was the problem that night. This was a service board not a governing body. We stopped trying to serve and started trying to change people’s behavior with a bribe.