GSC 2017 – Day One

Aloha kakou,

Today was the first day of the 67th General Service Conference, “Supporting Out Future.” While it’s true I’ve been busy, nothing we’ve done so far was officially part of the conference, though most has certainly been related. It was a long, busy day, but oh so exciting.

I started the morning much as I might any morning. Up for a quick shower and out for coffee with a friend (and fellow Pacific Region Delegate). But once back, we headed to the main ballroom lobby of the hotel for registration and then the opening.

Registration is really nothing much as we are pretty much already registered. Basically we picked up our name badges, which we are to wear at all times, mostly to facilitate talking to each other. With so many delegates and other servants here it’s hard to keep straight who everyone is and where they are from. Badges make it easy – at least if you can see the badge.

After getting our packet – a big binder chock full of carefully chosen information (you’ll see it when I come home) we entered the ballroom and found our seats. Actually we found any seat. We do not have assigned seating and are encouraged to move around every time we return in order to mix with delegates from other areas rather than simply sit with the same people every day. Good enough…part of the magic of the Conference is getting to know everyone (and I mean everyone).

Then we opened. Terry Bedient, Class A (non-alcoholic) Trustee and Chair of the General Service Board said a few words and then introduced a member for an opening reading, 2017 Readings (English) – Why Do We Need a Conference from page S20 of the Service Manual.

Then Greg T., the GSO manager, called the roll. When the roll is called and we acknowledge our presence the Conference actually opens. My name was called at 10:11 AM. Chicken skin. Seriously. Thirteen years ago I was still drunk, contemplating how long it would be till I would fired from my job, lose my apartment, and be turned out by my friends. Today my name was called at the 67th General Service Conference. I have no doubts that A.A. works. None.

We then greeted by the Delegate Chairperson, Bob M., and heard the keynote address by trustee Bill N,

Following that we received a number of instructions that insure the Conference runs smoothly. Many of them are the same as those we use in our own assemblies, some are specific to the Conference. Finally there was a bit of time for questions, there weren’t many, we’d done our homework.

Lunch with our region followed. This was really set up as an orientation lunch but we’d done that at PRAASA so we just enjoyed each other’s company. We did have one piece of business, just for the Pacific Region. It was about where to store the PRAASA archives and more will be forthcoming.

After lunch we returned to the main ballroom and heard three presentation centered on Growth. The three topics shared by the chosen delegate speakers were, Diversity, Safety, and Communication. The presenters did a great job.

Once the presentations were over we went straight to our first Conference Committee Meeting. As you may recall I’m on the Policy and Admissions Committee. I can’t speak about the business we conducted till after the Conference, but I want to let you know I was a little nervous going in. I was sure that everyone would be better prepared, would be be able to recall every word in the background from memory, and…well, I was wrong.

Now don’t get me wrong. They were prepared. Very well prepared. But it turns out, thanks to you and the Hawaii Fellowship, so was I. Thank you so much – your hard work made it possible for your voice to be heard because I knew our collective Group Conscience.

Again, I can’t say what we discussed for now, but I do want you to just how darn great you are! And know this, it’s not that I can’t talk about it with only you, I can’t talk about it with anyone outside my committee PERIOD.

After our committee work (and there’s plenty more of that to come), we had a quick break followed by our opening dinner. We’ll be eating all our meals, except breakfast, together for the rest of the week. It builds unity, is a lot of fun, and, given our workload, is more efficient.

After dinner we didn’t go back to the business of the Conference. Instead we attended to the business of staying sober and centered. We had a four speaker meeting. Each only had a few minutes, but all shared from the heart, just like we do at home.

That’s it for the night…it’s midnight and I’ve got an early all in the morning. I’ll report again tomorrow and let you know how it’s going here at 67th General Service Conference.

Yours in grateful fellowhip!

Bob H.

Hawaii Area 17

Panel 67 Delegate

GSC 2017 – Remote Communities

Aloha kakou,

Today, Saturday before the conference opens tomorrow, was a busy day. Even though the Conference hasn’t opened we didn’t really have the day off. There was fun to be had and work to be done.

I started early with breakfast with a few of my fellow Pacific Region Delegates at the hotel. We’d gathered to chat before heading out with the rest of the Pacific Region folks and a few other guests like our US and Canadian Trustees-at-Large to view the Rockefeller estate, Kykuit (a Dutch name meaning overlook).

If you aren’t familiar with the Rockefeller’s part in AA history know that it may well be that we wouldn’t exist today, or at least not in our present form, with John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s help, and his refusal to give us a lot of money, though he did help with the costs of printing the first Big Book. He had foreseen that we might have more trouble than we bargained for if we had access to a lot of money and, in part, this led to our Tradition of self support.

Joel C., the current Pacific Regional Trustee, had arranged to continue the small ‘t’ tradition that they Pacific Region Delegates get together on Saturday morning before the Conference for a group outing. He was able to arrange a tour of the nearby Rockefeller estate, though it is not yet open for the season.

Off we went in two buses to the estate. Keep in mind that the Rockefellers were at one time the richest folks around and the estate shows it. It’s a huge property that really supports a village’s worth of folks engaged in maintenance, groundskeeping, schooling, and so  much more.

The estate itself is simply stunning. Serious collectors of art, the estate houses a huge collection of modern art by names that even I know, Calder, Picasso, and many, many more.

If you ever get the chance, and a have love of history, art, or simply an interest, have a look. You can get a peek at this site: http://www.hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit

After the tour, and it was a couple of hours tramping through the mansion and the estate grounds led by two super docents, we drove off to a big group lunch. It was delicious, but even better was the fellowship and laughter.

That was the fun! It was now time for some work – fun too of course, but business none the less.

The first order of business after we returned was the 1728 meeting. Just so you know, 1728 is 12 * 12 * 12. This a meeting that is held to help our wonderful Class A Trustees (non-alcoholic) understand our Traditions and Concepts a little better. You and I, as alcoholics, really need our Traditions and Concepts to insure our groups and services function; in short, in order to live. The meeting is held so that we, alcoholic delegates and members, can share our experience on how these help keep our Fellowship alive (and I really want to say, because “upon AA Unity depend our lives and the lives of those to come”).

Among the topics was Tradition Seven. I thought it fitting that Tradition Seven was discussed because, although the Rockefeller tour was attended mostly by Pacific Region servants, family, and friends, the Seventh Tradition really is tied, in no small part, to the Rockefellers. I shared briefly on my experience with the Seventh in a specific event, as did many others.

After a short break it was time for the Remote Communities Meeting. This is not an official part of the Conference but is well attended. Several speakers were asked to share on specific topics and I was honored to be among them. The topic I was given was “Linking Remote Communities through Technology.” As at PRAASA I was asked to keep it about 7 minutes, but they weren’t timing me and I know I ran over, though not by much.

You can read my report through this link: 2017 RC Meeting – Linking Remote Communities through Technology.

After our presentations we broke into round tables, much as we do at our Assemblies and Committee Meetings, and discussed remote community issues in our Areas. Notes were taken and those will be available at some point in the future. It was a great conversation at my table and the concerns we have in Hawaii are really, at the heart, much like those of any area. Interestingly the idea of our kapuna, our elders, especially when in care homes or retirement living situations being much like remote communities came up and I was able to share the hard work we in Hawaii have done with our CEC Committee and our CEC Workbook.

After the round tables were completed it was time to ask for two volunteers to chair next year’s Remote Community Meeting. No one raised their hand until…I’m honored to announce that I will be one of the two chairs of the 2018 Remote Communities Meeting at the 68th General Service Conference. The other is Phil W., a fellow Pacific Region Delegate, he from Nevada, Area 42. Thanks Phil! We’ll have a blast.

Then it was time for break and it’d been a long day, with more to come. Most folks headed to dinner. I didn’t, having eaten a big breakfast and lunch. I went to the fitness center and sat in the jacuzzi for 20 minutes. Then it was back to my room to change and attend the annual Delegates Only Meeting.

The Delegates Only Meeting has had a variety of formats and purposes since 1954 when it was inaugurated. Currently, it’s a chance for several second year delegates to speak on how the Conference works, it’s purpose, and how we fit into the scheme of things. A lot of good things were said and I’ll share some of them when I give my report-back.

My hat was then used to pull the names of panel 66 Delegates from each Area to share briefly on their experience. My hat! Okay, it was about the only hat in the room and I was up front, but still… 🙂

We closed with the Responsibility Statement and broke up for the night, we’ll be back at it soon enough tomorrow. Of course no one, perhaps some really smart folks, went straight to bed. Many of us chatted in the lobby, and then did it again. Finally I returned to my room and typed out this report.

I’m signing off, but not before I give you a bit of good news. From here through the end of the Conference my reports will probably be much shorter. We can’t talk about what goes on in our committee work or what we’ve been discussing until after we finish. I can tell you what meetings I attended but not what went on in them. I’ll continue to let you know the stuff I can and tell you how I’m faring…and some stuff will be fair game, but I’ll be very busy from now through Friday evening. I promise you’ll get to full story when I get back, but until then I’ve got to concentrate on the business of the Conference.

Thank you so much. I’m truly honored to be allowed to serve you here at the Conference as your delegate and in all the jobs you’ve given me leading up to this. I’m told tomorrow when the formal roll call for the Conference happens it’ll really hit me and you know, everything our past delegates have to told me so far has been on the money, I’m guessing this will be too.

A hui hou kakou malama pono.

Yours in grateful fellowship,

Bob H.

Hawaii Area 17

Panel 67 Delegate

PS – If you hear the rumor that I wore a formal Samoan lava-lava and flip flops to the Remote Communities Meeting it is quite possibly the truth.

2017 GSC – Arrival in Rye Brook

Aloha kakou,

It’s been a bit over twenty-four hours since I arrived in Rye Brook, NY. The conference won’t start till Sunday, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. As with many AA events like PRAASA or our own recent Pacific Regional Forum, even our assemblies and committee meetings, there are friendships renewed, visits to local meetings, sightseeing, and plenty of fellowship.

After I checked in at the hotel in Rye Brook where this year’s General Service Conference is being held I ran into a couple of other Pacific Region Delegates. There are 93 area delegates from the US and Canada attending the conference and I’m happy to say that the Pacific Region shows up early! We caught up for a few minutes and agreed we’d be at a special AA meeting the next day and they were off to make their own preparations.

My day wasn’t done though. As most of you probably know I travel with a bicycle and yes, I got in a few miles of riding around my neighborhood for the next week or so. My first trip was into the town of Port Chester for some groceries for the room. The town is nice and it’s also a pleasure to do a little sightseeing when visiting a new place whether on AA business or not. The bike also serves another purpose. One of the pieces of advice I’ve received, from many folks including our Pacific Regional Trustee Joel C., is to be sure to stay active and get exercise during the week. This is advice I’ll gladly heed.

I wasn’t done quite done with the bike for the day though. After a quick and tasty dinner at the hotel I headed out again to go to a meeting of the Port Chester Group. This is a local meeting not connected with the Conference and I always try to make local meetings outside of whatever activity I’m attending. I’m happy to report that AA works just fine in Port Chester. The meeting was well attended and I was the only person from the Conference there. I made some new friends and both gave out and received contact info. I’m looking forward getting back there soon!

When I got back to the hotel I ran into still more Pacific Region Delegates and again, made plans for a that special meeting the next day (today). Then it was off to bed because we’d agreed to meet at 6 AM for a train into the city.

And yes, I was up early this morning and made it on time to head out with the Area 72 (Western Washington) panel 67 delegate, Steve C., and the Area 18 (Idaho) panel 66 delegate, Barry S., as well as Thad N., Area 18’s alternate delegate. He’s out here just to check things out and isn’t part of the Conference, but he’s a friend and a welcome guest. Indeed all of us have served together for years, attending the same roundtables at PRAASA and meeting and Regional Forums. We most certainly aren’t a glum lot, in fact, once on board the train to Manhattan we were actually asked to pipe down. We decided we’d be good ambassadors and complied, but that did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm.

Manhattan! We arrived at Grand Central Station and headed out into the city. It was crowded, fun, and, I’m sorry to say, a bit cold and damp. It wasn’t hard, more like one of our local mists, but it the temperature was on the cool side if you’re from Hawaii. Luckily I was dressed for it so it wasn’t a problem in any way, but hot coffee was needed at regular intervals throughout the day.

We had a couple of things on our agenda. The first was to head to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square. Barry, a panel 66 delegate, wanted to take us there to show where we 67’s (and the incoming 68’s) will be next year. Seeing the hotel wasn’t really the point though, more important was his showing us where the “good” coffee shops, markets, and restaurants are in that neighborhood. We’ll be there for a week next year and knowing where to stock up on things, have a quick break, get a cup of coffee or a breakfast can be invaluable.

Mission completed we jumped on the subway and headed uptown to the General Service Office at 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115. They open at 8:30 AM in the morning and yes, we were the first visitors of the day. On entering we immediately ran into Greg T., the current GSO manager who I first met at the Pacific Regional Forum. Besides being the manager, he’s a great guy and it was nice to quickly catch up. We visited the archives room (if you have any interest in the history of AA this is the place to be), and even asked a staff member to take our picture on a couch once belonging to Bill W. No, I won’t be posting the picture online. I will post this one though…

After browsing through newspaper articles, photos, displays, and really meditating on just how lucky we are to have Alcoholics Anonymous, we decided we really needed some breakfast. GSO is currently located in the Interchurch Center building on the 11th floor. In the basement of the building is an excellent cafeteria serving all the offices in the building, the food is good and inexpensive (for NY). We ordered omelets, got some fruit, and coffee, sat down and continued the laughter and fellowship we’d been sharing all morning. That’s when we spotted the Regional Forums Desk Assistant, Ivy Rivera. She’s a non-alcoholic (which is why I’m using her last name) employee and one of the hardest working folks I know. If you were at our Pacific Regional Forum you may have met her. She’s been putting on forums for around 25 years and boy does she know her stuff. We hugged and laughed and promised to catch up again later in the week. I have no doubt she’ll be as busy as any of us, in truth, probably more so, and with a smile on her face the entire time.

Next we headed to that “special meeting” I mentioned. If you are ever in Manhattan on a Friday you can go to the weekly meeting of AA held by the GSO. It’s not actually in Interchurch Building these days, there isn’t enough space for all of us it seems. Rather it’s held just up the block in the Riverside Church. The meeting is attended by alcoholic staff members, visitors, and also simply by folks in the neighborhood. You’d think that maybe a meeting like this would somehow be special and you’d be right. It’s special in that it’s just like any meeting of AA, everyone is on equal footing, speaking the language of the heart in love and fellowship.

Also as you might expect in New York, being from Hawaii didn’t make me someone traveling the from the most exotic location. We had members from Ireland, the Ukraine, and from across the street. It was a great meeting and again I’m happy to let you know that the Pacific Region delegates were there in force. I’m pretty sure that as far as regions go, we had the most number of folk present. The highlight of the meeting was a young lady with just 90 days who had the courage to share a bit of herself with us, reminding us of the real reason we do this, to keep the doors open for the alcoholic who is suffering and hasn’t met us yet. I’ll say more about her in my reportback, but she really made it a heartfelt meeting.

After the meeting, and lots of after-meeting fellowship, we hurried back to GSO for a tour. I’ve been on the tour before but the staff positions have rotated since then so it was great to meet the folks I’ll be working with at GSO over the course of panel 67. I’m staying in NY for my vacation from my regular job for the week after the conference and I’ll be back for that meeting and another visit to the offices.

We all agreed we were tired, and hungry. Our Manhattan journey wasn’t quite over. Barry wanted Italian food so off to Little Italy we went, by subway of course. We had a late lunch in a great Italian restaurant and took in quite a bit of street life after eating to find the best cannoli in the neighborhood. I didn’t have any, but I do know where to find them.

And then we were done. It was back on the subway to Grand Central, then on the train back to the hotel. Try as we might after getting back we didn’t make it out of the lobby for an hour after arriving. Lots of folks were showing up and one drunk talking to another really is what we do best. Finally we managed get back to our rooms and I could start writing this post.

Tomorrow is a day of both play and work. We’ll be going on a tour in the morning and later in the day going to the Remote Communities Meeting. It’s not really part of the of the Conference, but is a valuable extra. I’ve been asked to present on “Linking Remote Communities Through Technology” and I’ll be reporting on how that goes sometime tomorrow evening. I’ll also be posting my presentation and a few other things so stay tuned.

Every hour I’m here I’m more grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me to be of service to Alcoholics Anonymous and our own Hawaii Fellowship. I’ll leave with a quote from the Big Book that is close to my heart when I think of why I’m here: “Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.”

Thank you for the chance to do my best as your Panel 67 delegate.

A hui hou kakou malama pono.

Bob H.
Hawaii Area 17
Panel 67 Delegate

2017 GSC – At the airport

Aloha kakou!

This is the first of what I hope are many reports on my experiences at the 2017 General Service Conference. I’m at the airport in Honolulu right now finishing up one too many cups of coffee and getting ready to board my plane. I’ll be flying direct to Atlanta, site of the 2015 International, and then on to White Plains, New York and Rye Brook, site of the Conference. I won’t have any time in Atlanta other than at the airport, but since so many of us were there, I’m sure it’ll spark a few memories.

I’m writing now, before I have much to report to get into the habit of it, something I’ve learned from all of you. I also want to take a moment to thank everyone in the Hawaii Fellowship for giving me the opportunity to serve you as your delegate to the Conference. It’s a privilege and I look forward to carrying your voice to all of AA in the US and Canada.

I also want to thank everyone who participated in the recent Inform the Delegate Assembly for their hard work, the hard work of their groups, and dedication you all brought to the work. Until the ITD I felt nervous and a bit incomplete about my preparations and, of course, now I know why. I hadn’t been informed our our Group Conscience on the agenda items for the Conference. I thought hard about what we’d done and meditated on what I’d heard you say and then I realized, until I knew your thoughts I couldn’t do my job. And now, I trust you’ve prepared me well. Thank your from the bottom of my heart.

Many of you asked for my notes from my summary of what I heard you tell me. I’m uploading them here as: Inform the Delegate Topics – What I Heard. Please keep in mind that I heard so much more than I can easily make note of without filling volumes and, even more importantly, it’s hard to capture the love with which you spoke. I hope the notes are useful to you.

It’s time to go and board the plane and I take step one of my journey to my first General Service Conference. I’m told by all the past delegates I know that it’s a life changing experience. But in truth, I want you to know that you, the entire Hawaii Fellowship, has already changed my life and for that I am forever grateful.

Mahalo nui loa,

Bob H.
Hawaii Area 17
Panel 67 Delegate

PRAASA 2017 Thoughts and Reflections

Aloha kakou,

It’s been twenty-four hours since PRAASA 2017 closed and I’ve had a little time to reflect on the experience. First though, let me say again how profoundly grateful I am to be allowed to serve you and all the fellowship in Hawaii Area 17.

I was talking over breakfast this morning with someone I consider one of my mentors, a woman who has known me since I entered General Service as an Alternate GSR for my homegroup some years ago. I am not the same person I was back then in many, many ways. I certainly wasn’t fit to be your delegate and, if the truth be known, I don’t think anyone would have expected it, myself included.

So today, fresh from the experience of being an incoming delegate at PRAASA I am struck by the thought, one we hear all the time in meetings, that if I’d have made a list when I first go sober of what I wanted, I would have sold myself short.

For that I am grateful and want to thank you, Hawaii Area 17, for helping me, sometimes pushing me, to become the man I am today. Keep up the work, I’m still a work in progress.

So what is being an incoming delegate at PRAASA like? Well it is a lot like anyone else’s experience at PRAASA and if you’ve been to one or more, you know what I mean. But the duties of a delegate are a bit different and, generally speaking I would guess that some of the social obligations are a bit different too.

I’m guessing that except in rare circumstances any incoming delegate has been to a number of PRAASAS in the past and probably has a fair number of friends and acquaintances to catch up with. That’s certainly been true of me. My experience is that pretty much everyone wishes you well as an incoming delegate. I know I always wished the delegates I met well, after all, given their duties, who’d want them to do badly?

So I spent a lot of time catching up with folks and meeting and greeting members I’d hadn’t yet had the opportunity to befriend. I am always especially heartened to meet first-time PRAASA attendees because I recall the “deer caught in the headlights” feeling I had at my first PRAASA in Portland, Oregon. If you going to be a first time attendee at the next PRAASA in Sparks/Reno, go say hi to a delegate. Honest.

And you know, there’s a similarity between first-time attendees and incoming delegates. It’s a new experience for both and I’m not ashamed to say I had a bit of trepidation going in. While I’d been a presenter back at PRAASA in Hawaii that’d been a while ago. Also, while it was important I did a good job back then, I really didn’t want to let Hawaii down by being less than prepared. So it was with a bit of caution that I flew to Sacramento.

What I discovered is that my fellow incoming delegates pretty much all felt the same way, and the second year delegates confided they too had some of those feelings. All good then.

On Friday I delivered our area highlights (see my previous post) and that was when I felt the most nervous. Once over the rest of PRAASA was smooth. I’d broken the ice and I felt pretty good going into my presentation the next day. On Sunday all the delegates took the stage for the Ask-it-Basket and yes, we all had a bit of fear over the questions we’d be asked, but Joel in his role as “quizmaster” was kind and directed questions to us that he thought we’d have a good chance at answering.

And, as at all PRAASAS, some of things I’ll take home as highlights happened not during a presentation or even at the event, but could only happen because, to strengthen Unity in our fellowship we gather together and spend some time talking, one drunk to another.

So one of my memories happened at the coffee shop down the street and across the railroad tracks. I’d ridden my bicycle over to grab some coffee on the Saturday break between panels and dinner. A woman approached me and asked if I’d ridden. I said yes. She told me that it was probably less scary than walking, which she’d done, as there is no sidewalk allowing access by road. I agreed. Then I asked if she was “attending the event next door?” She was and we proceeded to do just what we do best, share our experience, strength, and hope.

She’s a new DCM from the Pacific region and had only been doing her new job for a couple of months. She was worried that she wasn’t up to the task and that she was trying to step into some pretty big shoes, those of her immediate predecessor. Her story sounded terribly familiar because it’s my story too.

We talked and I shared my experience in trying to lead, in my case our area as I’ve never been a DCM. She’s facing the same challenges we all face; how to inspire enthusiasm for service, handle challenges with grace, and make sure everything we do helps the drunk and creates unity.

I told her the same things I’ve heard from you. It’ll be fine and at the end of your rotation you’ll find you’ve become the servant that the next panel will look up to and try to emulate. Inspire enthusiasm by being enthusiastic. Work had and trust the process. Ask for help, always and never try to shoulder all the work yourself. It’s good advice you’ve given me, and through me, her. If I forget it at any time in the next two years, please remind me. I need to hear it too.

I left and changed for dinner and while seated with a couple my fellow panel 67 delegates I received an email from her thanking me. Really it’s me who should be thanking her and I do. She reminded me that known of us are alone on this journey, that we look to each other for strength, hope, and love, and that through unity we can help the next drunk we meet as no one else can.

Thank you again for this chance. I am honored to be your delegate, to be your friend, and to share the road to happy destiny with you.

A hui hou kakou malama pono,

Bob H.
Hawaii Area 17
Panel 67 Delegate

The Last Day of PRAASA 2017

Aloha kakou,

PRAASA 2017 isn’t over quite yet, though by the time I actually post this message it will be. I’m sitting in the main hall listening to “What’s on your mind,” and folks are bringing up a lot of good topics.

  • The role and place of YPAAS in AA.
  • The underserved community of Hispanic woman.

Past Trustees were up next and honestly, this is my favorite panel. These folks really gave and continue to give their heart and soul to AA. Most of what follows are either quotes or paraphrases (more than likely) of what I heard, some bits are my own comments. Keep in mind this is what I heard, not necessarily what they said or meant.

  • Nancy H. – Past General Service Trustee/Grapevine –  I still hear new things everyday and I’m coming up on 30 years. We, in theory, welcome self-examination. In practice, not so much. I believe the only possible way to support our future is to support our present. We only have today. What we really need to support and maintain are the principles. The mechanism may change, the principles stay the same. At heart, at bottom, what AA is, is one drunk talking to another.
  • Roberta L. – Past General Service Trustee – I started out as keeper of the birthday list for my home group. I zeroed in on two things, self-support and something else. Something really good. Sponsorship. And that is really good. It is my responsibility to respond positively to any drunk who reaches out for help. A good sponsor will tell me the truth when I don’t want to hear it. A good sponsor is active in service work. A good sponsor laughs a lot. A good sponsor is not a complainer. I challenge you to go home and encourage your fellow group members to bump their contributions to the basket if they can afford.
  • Madeleine P. – Past Pacific Regional Trustee – We were given a topic and someone got up and said we weren’t given a topic, so I’m already pissed. [She then read a letter about Irma Livoni who was kicked of AA in the past for promiscuity.] She then spoke about diversity, love, tolerance, and rigidity.
  • Paul C. – Past General Service Trustee – There probably nothing new under the sun in our service. When I came into AA they could not have cared less about my sexual orientation, my age, or anything else. “It looks like the kid wants to quit drinking,” and that was the end of it. I got a lot of help from the LGBTQ community when I came in. His sponsor said, “Never sleep with anyone crazier than you are. I don’t think that’s going to be problem for a while.” It’s all about unity and saving drunks (as Joel said). It’s not about the rigidity that Madeleine discussed. “It looks like the kid wants to quit drinking. Let’s help him.” Sponsorship is not hierarchical, never was, shouldn’t ever be. I also get concerned when we send people to other fellowships for other problems. We are Alcoholics Anonymous. As long as they have a desire to stop drinking, even if it’s their secondary, tertiary or whatever problem, they are welcome.
  • Tom M. – Past General Service Trustee – “Supporting Our Future,” is not a new topic. In 1937 Bill and Bob got folks from NY and Akron together in what may have been one of the first business meetings. The idea of paying people to help folks got shot down, as did the idea of sanitariums. They debated and reached consensus. The idea of a big old fat book got pitched and didn’t get shot down. In the 50’s Bill and Bob realized they wouldn’t be around forever and pitched the conference and turning AA over to, well, us. In 1951 we began a four year trial period of running AA. Sometimes we are told don’t take others inventory, but we must take inventory sometimes. We are told that our service structure is upside down and that means the GSR is the most important link – do you have a GSR, do you fund your GSR, so you ask them share for the entire group? Bill coined the term “bleeding deacon” and I think he was refering to the old timer hanging around in service for ever. What’s the medicine for AA? It’s recogizing that the GSR is the most important officer. It’s allowing them to fully inform their group and making sure they a fully informed.
  • Julian R. – Past Pacific Regional Trustee – I looked at the topic and idea of “Supporting Our Future.” There might be another path for this through tolerance. I struggled with the god thing when I came to AA. Jim B was able to insert the “god as we understand him” into the steps. My strength is the group and fellowship. Our membership in the US, not overseas, not in Canada or the US, has dipped. We need to widen the gateway into Alcoholics Anonymous. What is important to us is Tradition Three – the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Many Pathways to Spirituality is not broad enough in some areas, not direct enough in others. There is room in AA for people of all shades of belief and non-belief. “The God Word,” published by the GSO in England (check it out http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/download/1/Library/Documents/Literature%20Downloads/3267%20The%20God%20Word.pdf)
  • Greg M – Past General Service Trustee – My friends up here have said everything I was going to say, so I’ll sit down. Then he talked about the PRAASA archives. My first PRAASA was in 1983 in San Diego. I think taking a look at the PRAASA archives really can help us support our future. In AA we only do two things, we don’t drink and we help others. I’ve often said every man, woman, and child ought to come to an open AA meeting. That’s how open we are. AA does not have a money problem. Let me repeat that. AA does not have a money problem. If anything we have an apathy problem across the spectrum. Our message is spreading around the world. In 1954 89% of groups contributed. In 2000 44%, in 2016 42%. I’d say we are in a free fall. What do you think this trend means to us. I remind you in AA numbers are suspect except for audited financial statements. I think there are more AA meeting today that those held by AA groups. Why wouldn’t we want to be self-supporting in the services we’ve asked for.
  • Ruth J. – Past Pacific Regional Trustee – I didn’t receive a letter about the topic. If you want my answer to supporting our future? Yes. Let’s support our future with our attendance and our money. It’s important that the job gets done, it’s not important who does it. The job changes you and you get more out of it than you put in and that’s important. After a time you don’t need to attach your name to it. Your homegroup should be able to look you in the eye and see you aren’t feeling well. If you skip from meeting to meeting or your newcomers never find a home group no one will get to know them. Hold tight to your home group. If it’s not the best find another. Mold it to your liking. If general service isn’t for you, try something else, PI, H&I.
  • George D. – Past Pacific Regional Trustee – I’m not as fond of speaking as I used to be, but I’m very fond of one on oneing. We got to talking about AA members going to Al-Anon meetings. I’ve never done it, though there’s a time in my life I probably could have used it. A former sponsee said, “Any one George sponsors needs Al-Anon.” I hope that doesn’t get back to New York. 42 years ago when I was a delegate the issue of AA members working professionally in the field of alcoholism was tearing the fellowship up. We talked about it. We came to the conclusion that our employee had nothing to do with our membership. We used to the term “two hatters” for those folks. Another issue that was talked about was special interest groups. At the time it was specifically gay groups. Much loving discussion followed and it was finally decided that of course special interest groups could be listed. Then there was the controversy of groups worrying about folks who’d smoked a joint coming into AA. Pure alcoholics like me, John B called us alkasauruses, are rarer than they used to be. A big problem today is a lot of professional organizations view us as a religious cult and we aren’t doing enough to disabuse them of that notion. There is no requrirement of conformity in AA.

And then it was time for the panel 66 and 67 delegates to take the stage for the annual “stump the delegate” game. Actually it’s the ask-it-basket panel where delegates do their best to answer questions asked in the ask-it-basket. Joel, in his role as Pacific Regional Trustee, goes through the pile of questions and decides who gets to answer which question. He makes it a lot of fun, but the questions can be tough, and they can be funny as well. “What’s love got to do with it?” was a question this year.

I was given a two part question Joel thought I might be able to answer as I’m on the Policy and Admissions committee. You’ll have to pardon my memory here, I didn’t keep the exact wording of the question so I may have this a wee bit wrong (we can check the tape of the panel later if necessary).

  1. What is going on with the Spanish translation of the GSC background materialS?
  2. Is it worth spending our money on that?

The answer to the first part can be found in the background material itself this year. There are six plans for translating the background, actually into both Spainish and French, and the committee I’m serving on will look at them. I answered the second question not as a delegate and certainly not  for AA, but simply as a member of AA. Basically it come as down to saving the drunk and achieving unity. We can only do those two things through actions taken through an informed group conscience, which, at the bottom, is what the GSC is. If we cannot fully inform all the members of the conference then we cannot truly have an informed group conscience.

And with the end of that panel we closed PRAASA 2017. But do save the date for the next PRAASA, the first of our next fifty years of PRAASA.

PRAASA 2018 will be held March 2-4, 2018 in Reno/Sparks, Nevada at the Nugget Hotel.

Nugget Hotel
1100 Nugget Ave
Sparks NV
800-648-1177
Group Code: G-PRAASA for $89.00 per night

See you there!

I’ll have one more post tomorrow about my PRAASA experience in this series. I’ll do my best to sum up what this has meant to me in my new position as your panel 67 delegate. One thing I can say right now. I am forever grateful to you, Area 17, for allowing me to serve in this capacity. It is an amazing experience and saying I’m grateful doesan’t seem like nearly enough. I don’t have those words yet, but know that they are in my heart. Thank you.

Yours in grateful fellowship,

Bob H.
Hawaii Area 17
Panel 67 Delegate

PRAASA 2017’s Long Day

Aloha kakou,

Saturday is always the long day at PRAASA and this one proved no exception. We started promptly at 8:00 AM with our first panel of the morning on “Taking Our Inventory.” I was scheduled to speak second during the panel and my topic was “Are all members, groups, and areas treated equally in the Conference process?” I’m not going to include it in this post, but if you’d like to read it, I’ve posted it here: Equality in the Conference Process.

At PRAASA presenters are given a topic and a time limit. It’s very important that you do not go over the time limit, or as at our area, a red light will come on and the attendees will give you the hint with loving applause. I was given seven minutes. That’s actually a pretty good amount of time if you plan accordingly. You also have to have your presentation ready several days ahead of schedule so translators can see it first.

Naturally enough as soon as I sent my presentation off last Monday, not a minute early, I immediately realized there was a lot more I should have said, or said differently, or not said. It was too late. I was committed to my script. Sure, I could change word or two here and there, but what I had written would be what I was delivering. And I had five days to think about it.

It was time for me to present and I did the best I could. I got through the whole thing within time and don’t remember ever stumbling over my own words too much. I’m had rehearsed a few times and was pretty sure I’d be within my time even if, as often happens, things stretch out a bit. It stretched but the read light never came on and I breathed a sigh of relief.

There were other good speakers today, especially Sammy, who spoke on the topic, “When do I speak up in my home group and when is it appropriate to practice restraint of tongue?” I can’t remember the particulars, but I will tell I winced more than once when Sammy described behavior that sounded a lot like me at times…the times I should have practiced restraint of tongue.

Today was also the day off the delegate lunch. Generally there are several lunches available at PRAASA. There’s the Al-Anon lunch which anyone may purchase, the past delegates’ lunch open to past delegates, and the delegates’ lunch open to current delegates. This was my first delegates’ lunch and as you might imagine, it’s a working lunch. This isn’t to say it’s not social, it is, but we also have a number of things to discuss and it’s capped with something I wasn’t aware of, we end with a short AA meeting.

After lunch we returned to the main hall for Joel’s trustee report. Joel’s reports, and you know this if you’ve heard him, are a mix of the sharing of his journey as a trustee and facts from GSO and other sources he thinks it’s important for us to hear. Today was no exception. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that he mentioned his trip to Maui for our Orientation Assembly. He described the hike several members of the Maui fellowship put together and I was lucky enough to attend. If you want my take on it, check out the second Mynah Bird issue of Panel 67. He really enjoyed that hike and his trip and I want pass on his thanks!!

After Joel’s report it was time for the PRAASA business meeting. PRAASA is very much in the spirit of AA in that it is run by those attending in most essential ways. The whole body in attendance forms the Group Conscence. There is a steering commiiftee made up of delegates,

The business meeting was really quite short and I got hop on my bicycle for a short ride back during the break before dinner and the speaker meeting. Dinner was fine and I had sat with some folks I didn’t I know well from a California area, as well as two other panel 67 delegates.

The speaker was Greg T., the current General Service Office manager. Greg had joined the delegates for lunch and at our earlier round tables. However rich Greg’s AA history is, it turns out this is his first PRAASA.

After Greg it was time to go back to our round tables and finish the night. We finished up discussing the topics we’d chosen, most having to do with the GSC and what we need to know, bring, or avoid. The panel 66 delegates are valuable resources to us, as I realized, will we be next year to the incoming delegates.

When all was said and done for the day, we discovered that a cold rain had overtaken the city of Sacramento. But, our hearts warmed by the love of our fellow attendees, and knowing that we had another day of PRAASA tomorrow, the trip home for the night was joyous.

Tomorrow we play, “stump the delegate,” something that makes my fellow delegate’s a wee bit nervous. I wonder what question I’ll get? Check this site out tomorrow to find out!

Yours in grateful fellowship,

Bob H.

Hawaii Area 17 – Panel 67

Equality in the Conference Process (PRAASA 2017)

Panel 5: Taking Our Inventory
Topic: Are all members, groups, and areas treated equally in the Conference process?
Presenter: Bob H., Hawaii Area 17 – Panel 67 Delegate

Aloha kakou! That means aloha, welcome and love to us all. My name is Bob H. and I am an alcoholic. I am truly honored to serve as the Hawaii Area 17, Panel 67 Delegate. I say again, aloha kakou.
The topic I was asked to present on is, “Are all members, groups, and areas treated equally in the Conference process?”
My first thought when I saw the topic was a defensive, “Yes, of course they are!” My second thought was, “I haven’t been to a conference yet, how the heck should I know?” Then I thought I should try to break down the question and understand it a bit more completely.
I think we all know the Conference process isn’t just the annual week-long event held in New York. It’s our members, our groups, our districts, our areas, communicating their conscience through our delegates, our trustees, and our conference committee system to act “as the actual voice and effective conscience of our whole Society”. It is a process, and for the most part, a well-documented one.
I work as a decision support analyst in the health field and deal with a lot of different processes for gathering and acting on information. It’s been my experience that there are at least three different places in which these processes can break down. And what would unequal treatment be but a breakdown in our process? A process intended to insure, in the words of Bill W., “…that all of us – AA as a whole – are now entirely ready to take over the full guardianship of the AA Traditions that guarantee our unity in time to come, and also to take complete charge of those world services which are the means by which we function as an entire Fellowship…”
The first way things can break down is simple, it’s the documented process itself; the plan of how to do the things we do, the code behind the program. To this we can ask, is some part of our plan currently flawed enough to create inequality in action? Please note, I’m not suggesting this was done intentionally, times change and what worked yesterday may become a hindrance today. We learn as time goes on and hopefully we act to make things better.
Truthfully, some parts of our current plan appear to be out of step with our goals.
I opened with a greeting in Hawaiian, a very simple one. Most of you probably know the word “aloha.” But I added the word “kakou.” Simply put, it modifies the word “aloha” to be inclusive of a group. To you as an individual I say aloha. To you as a group I say aloha kakou. What’s my point?
Without translating that bit of information, you might be in the dark about my complete meaning. I am excluding some of you from understanding the full meaning of my words.
And yes, our documented process, our plan, currently treats some of our members, groups, and areas unequally. Our background material is not fully translated which means some, probably many, of our members, groups, and areas, do not have access to the full meaning, they understand “aloha,” but perhaps not “kakou.”
How do I know this? First, I am sitting on the Policy and Admissions Committee this panel and we’ll be looking at translation plans for our background material. Further, to research this topic, I reread our compendium of the AA General Service Conference Inventory which lists the problem of translation as a recognized opportunity for growth in our Conference process. There are many more such opportunities in that inventory document and if you haven’t read it, what better time?
The second area where inequality can enter the system is physical, in my case, geography. I live on the island of Oahu and because of this, members, groups, and districts on Oahu currently have a lot of access to our delegate. They can easily meet me face to face and tell me how they feel. Yes, our assemblies and committee meetings are the place we “officially inform our delegate,” but they certainly aren’t the only places opinions are offered. I attended a meeting two weeks ago where the topic was “Safety in AA” and the sharing was as eloquent and informative as any I’ve heard during an assembly. But I attended that meeting on Oahu, not Molokai.
Our other islands do not have the same access. It’s not a fault of our plan, it’s simply a physical reality. It’s harder for some of our members and groups to have access to our Conference process than it is for others. I can’t speak for you, but I’m sure each of you, looking honestly at how your area functions, will find something that, no matter how hard we may try, keeps some members and groups from participating as fully as others. Will technology overcome these challenges? Perhaps. We’d certainly like to think so. But clearly those solutions will bring their own set of challenges, their own set of inequalities.
The third area, is, well…us. The human factor. Any process which includes humans in the loop is going to face human challenges. During my research discussions, I learned that there are areas that have experienced on-going trouble in attracting members to General Service. And, as I’m sure we have all experienced at some level in our service journeys, when we don’t have the bodies, the work doesn’t always get done, or done to the degree we might prefer. When the work doesn’t get done, it may mean that some members, some groups, do not get the full opportunity to participate in our Conference process.
Concept Two reminds us that, “The General Service Conference of A.A. has become, for nearly every practical purpose, the active voice and the effective conscience of our whole Society in its world affairs.” Tradition Two reminds that there’s no problem we can’t face squarely, in unity, if we allow our Higher Power to work through our informed group conscience. Can we be truly unified if we do not have full equality in participation, at least from those who choose to participate? For that to happen, equality in informing our groups is of paramount importance, and so is being able to listen to them.
The recent General Service Inventory is a great start in identifying areas where we can improve, where we can make sure that all members, groups, and areas are treated equally in our Conference process. “This we owe to AA’s Future; to place our common welfare first; To keep our Fellowship united. For on AA unity depend our lives, and the lives of those to come.”
Mahalo. A hui hou kakou malama pono.

PRAASA 2017 Starts

Aloha kakou,

Friday is the start of PRAASA. The first event is an orientation for newcomers. PRAASA can be a bit confusing for first time attendees and there’s a lot going on. The orientation is somewhat similar to our own Area Orientation Assembly, though much shorter of course. There’s no way to prepare a new GSR completely for the coming two year panel in just two days, and likewise, there’s no way just a few minutes of orientation can prepare a first-timer for the full PRAASA experience. But it helps to have a map and that’s what’s being shared. Have your own PRAASA experience is the solid advice from Joel C., our current Pacific Regional Trustee, and he’s right, whether it’s your first PRAASA or your 15th.

So, as your delegate, my first official PRAASA duties started this morning when, like the rest of the Panel 67 delegates, I gave my two minute presentation of our Area 17 highlights which I’ll also be giving at the General Service Conference. I’m not putting them in this post, but I’ll put them in another right here: Delegate’s 2017 Area Highlights. Keep in mind, as this is the start of 2017, the highlights are really about what’s been going on, some of it in 2016.

I was nervous on stage looking out at hundreds of fellow alooholics. Luckily we are only given two minutes so it’s over pretty quick. I got through it without tripping over my own tongue so I’m going to guess it went well enough.

The panel 66 delegates also all share on a chosen topic and have a couple of extra minutes. They did a great job on their PRAASA experiences.

Soon it was time for the next panel and our own Deborah S. was a presenter on her topic of, “Supporting a Safe Environment for our Fellowship‐What can my home group do?” My heart went out to her because she had it a lot tougher than I did. Here’s why.

PRAASA is attended by a large number of our Spanish speaking members and owns its own translation equipment. Well there was a mixup or breakdown, I’m not quite sure what it was, and it wasn’t being used. That meant instead of simultaneous translation, the her panel, and the next I believe, had translation provided as they went. How it works is simple, the presenter says something, the translator follows, then the presenter starts again. It’s tough when you’ve rehearsed your presentation by simply reading it through. And frankly, it’s a little distracting to the person listening in English, and probably in Spanish as well. Luckily equipment was working later, but Deborah was a trooper and did a great job, even with extra challenge.

Dinner time rolled around and I went to dinner with several members from Hawaii, including a past delegate, two current officers, as well members from other areas. It was great dinner sharing stories with folks from around the Pacific Region and learning, again, just how much we have in common.

Back for the evening session of PRAASA, our chair, Kunane, was the moderator for the evening panel. He too did a great job and, while I can’t speak for him, it sure looked like he enjoyed the experience.

Then the panels were over for the evening and it was time for our Round Tables. Just as we often split up at Area into GSR, DCM, Officer, and Standing Committee groups, that’s the plan at PRAASA. Generally the attendees split into groups like GSRS, or Chairs, or, in my case, delegates, and the sharing starts. I’ve always loved this part of PRAASA because it really gives me chance to interact with folks doing the same job I’m doing.

This time I was in the Delegate’s Round Table. Unlike the more freefrom format for most of the round tables, the delegate’s round table is sort of a training session for the incoming delegates. The second year delegate’s are asked share on their experience in and around the conference for the benefit of the first year delegates. Tips are shared, my favorite this year being, “coffee is not food.” There was a lot of great sharing and I’m grateful that our second year delegates are so willing to share their manao.

And, late at night, at least for me, the first day of PRAASA was over. Or at least, almost over. I still had to write this post. And now, that’s over too. It’s been a long day and tomorrow I’m even busier. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

Yours in grateful service,

Bob H.

Hawaii Area 17 Panel 67 Delegate.

Delegate’s 2017 Area Highlights

Aloha kākou.

From the first recorded meetings held in Hawai‘i Nei in 1943 to 2016’s 320 reported active groups spread across our main islands of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Maui, and Hawai‘i island, the fellowship of A.A. has blossomed to include all of our ethnically diverse population in fourteen service districts.

We strengthen unity throughout Area 17 by doing our best to visit each district during every panel, drawing from the hat locations for our assemblies, generally three in odd years, four in even, and committee meetings held in-between.

Groups in Hawaii sacrifice much to insure their voice is heard as air travel is our only viable option and we do have excellent area participation. Our GSRS work hard to let groups and members on their respective islands know how important it is to keep the doors open for alcoholics who haven’t met us yet.

Recent area work included major changes in our area Corrections Committee structure effecting a closer relationship between those carrying the message into facilities and the resources of our assembly. Further, to improve internal communications, our area webmaster and committee migrated our email system, eliminating a huge spam problem and providing new tools we hope to take full advantage of going forward.

Capping 2016, Area 17 was privileged to host the Pacific Regional Forum, where 449 attendees, 70% of them first timers, were treated to the beauty of our Kona coast, towering volcanoes, island-style hospitality, and the message of hope and recovery that is Alcoholics Anonymous.

A hui hou kākou.