I just don’t have the words tonight. We finished the business of 67th General Service Conference, your business, at 7:43 PM (EDT). In Hawaii that would have been 1:43 PM (HST). We gather again tomorrow to break bread, say a hui hou and malama pono to those who are rotating to other forms of service in Alcoholics Anonymous, and those, like myself returning next year. We’ll then begin to head home to let you know what it is we’ve been up to this past week. You should know and make sure we did it right.
This morning started, not with my bike ride and coffee, but with breakfast with my fellow Pacific Region Delegates. It turns out they’d insisted on having breakfast with me before business began. You see today, April 28th is my sobriety date and today is (at least it is back in Hawaii for a few more hours) my 13th anniversary. Yes, I’m a teenager. It’s hard to believe that thirteen years ago I shaking so bad I could barely sign the papers allowing me to enter the treatment center were I began the journey leading me here to the 67th General Service Conference. It is, in truth, unbelievable. Unbelievable anywhere except in Alcoholics Anonymous where, again in truth, it’s not that unusual.
We are not here in New York for me. We are here for the drunk, who like me thirteen years ago, hasn’t yet come through our doors and has no idea that a life beyond imagination is about to unfold. I don’t just thank you for allowing me to be of service, I thank you for my life and for the lives of those yet to find us.
What did we do today? Well, today was much like yesterday. We continued to hear Conference Committee reports and vote on committee recommendations as well as discuss there additional considerations.
Some went quickly, some…some took some time to get right. And remember, right may mean doing nothing. That can be difficult because, and I can’t speak for others, people like me want to jump and fix things. Sometimes I want to do this when there isn’t a problem. That’s one reason there so many of us at the conference. I’ve discussed this before, but because of our insistence on Minority Opinion it really only takes one sane person in the house to set things straight.
Today we worked on agenda items right up to lunch and even a few minutes into lunch. I think we all sensed we were near completion and wanted to make sure everything was done and we left no dangling threads to unravel everything when we closed the Conference. And in a sense, we actually did complete our scheduled work before lunch. We finished with the last of our Committee reports at 12:10 PM (EDT). But that wasn’t all of our work, we still had tabled motions and floor actions to work on, but lunch first.
After lunch we did take some time to hear a wonderful presentation on The Grapevine and La Viña by the A.A. Grapevine Director. I was reminded how inspired I was by The Grapevine when I first got sober and read old GV issues my sponsor had given my while I rode the bus from Honolulu to Windward Oahu several times a week during my early recovery.
I hope when I get back we can talk about the Grapevine and how we can insure that it will continue as the voice of Fellowship. I was troubled to note that while Grapevine and La Viña had good years financially, subscriptions dropped in Hawaii by around 5%. I’m sure that our rates ebb and flow a bit, and perhaps they’ll pick up. I hope so, because I hope I have will still have a bag of past issues to hand to a sponsee who faces a long bus ride several times a week to IOP, just like I did not so long ago. Let’s work together and make sure that happens!
Then it was back to work. We had five motions that had been tabled earlier during the week. In essence these were all very similar motions, those having to do with allowing Conference Committees to conduct conference calls prior to the Conference. Wow…the word ‘conference’ three times in one short sentence.
Now you might think they could all be bundled together and taken care of in one discussion but because of the nature of the Conference Committee system and the way we are structured that actually could not happen. We had a lively discussion about the issue which wasn’t, as you might think, simple. In the end we reached combined solution, but it had us in a quandry for some time.
Once we’d finished that, we started on Floor Actions. These are items that, hopefully, arise out of need from the way the Conference progresses. While allowed, it is not completely correct to come to the Conference with a the idea of bringing up a Floor Action to get an item heard. This method of business circumvents the Committee system and does not really allow for an examination of background material. Items that arise out of the work of the Conference are generally modifications or extensions of other Conference business such that there has been background material to read by members of the Conference and we aren’t operating blindly.
In our Hawaii Assembly while it may be possible to make a motion and have it voted on during an Assembly it is at the discretion of our Chair, currently Kunane D. We generally ask that a motion be submitted to our Chair early enough that it can be discussed at an Area Committee Meeting to insure it’s worded properly. Then, with sufficient time, it can be discussed by the Assembly, taken back to the groups, and brought forward again at the next Assembly for a vote. Our procedure is different, but very similar in intent to that of the Conference. We always want to be sure that the top of the triangle, our groups, have the time to discuss issues before they send their Group Consciences to the Assembly. While we may handle small matters “from the floor,” any substantive matter really needs approval by the bosses of A.A., the Groups!
We worked until dinner, our last dinner together during the 67th General Service Conference. I’ve said we all dine together as a rule, though sometimes by region or in delegate only settings. Tonight many of the trustees dined together to conduct some of their own business and we dined more socially. And you know, dining together really works to foster unity. I don’t think I’ve had a meal, outside of regional meals in which business is done, where I’ve sat with exactly the same group. In this way the 93 delegates, the trustees, and staff have time to get to know each other, talk story, build bonds, and yes, have a little fun.
Today at lunch, for instance, I chatted with the delegate from Iowa. Some of you may know I bicycle across that state from time to time in a big annual ride. Well I’d met a member of A.A. there (yes, there are meetings on the ride) who was a past trustee. I hadn’t know that for several years, though I’d seen him off and on at meeting during my two of my trips there. Last summer we rode together for an hour or so and had a great chat. I had a picture of him on my phone but for some reason no contact information. Well I showed the picture of my riding buddy to the Iowa delegate and yep, they knew each other and I had contact information in no time at all.
That’s the Fellowship for you. And I was also able to send along our greeting to our friend and past Area Archivist Ted K. I asked the delegate from the area he’s moved to if she knew him and, as you might expect from Ted, she does. Aloha Ted, all the best!
And then…back to work.
We finished all the business of the Conference, as I said, at 7:43 PM (EDT). Or did we?
When you get down to it, the Conference is not just this annual event. It’s an on-going year long, even multi-year, process. Yes, we met for a week and made decisions. But implementation of those decisions, whether that be creating a plan or putting one into practice, goes on all year. So does the careful thought and work of our groups, districts, areas, and regions as they carry the message and ask for the tools to do that job even better; to reach the drunk who hasn’t yet found us. I, like the other delegates, will spend the summer reporting back to you the results of the work that’s been done this week. But the heart of the Conference, odd as it may seem, isn’t the assembly I’ve just been to, it’s you and your group, and all our groups. It is, after all, the groups that are at the top of the triangle deciding what is that they need to do their job better. The Conference in New York and the GSO aren’t, in the end, some mysterious body making decisions disconnected from you and your group. They are your servants, doing their best to bring you the tools you’ve requested so that you can go on a Twelve Step call or great a newcomer at the door with the message of hope and love that is alcoholics anonymous.
Tell us what you need and we’ll do our best to get it to you. That’s the process I saw and participated in this week. It’s real. It’s fantastic. It is spiritual and inspiring. But it’s not an end in itself and I trust it never will be. It is your Conference.
I can’t wait to come home and tell you about your Conference and the work you did there through your delegates, trustees, and special workers. I hope you have many questions. I hope you hold us accountable. And I hope above all else, that tomorrow, or the next day, you’ll be able to hold your hand in love and guide the next suffering alcoholic through the doors of A.A. into life beyond imagination, just like you did for me thirteen years ago.
A hui hou kakou malama pono.
I love you all and will see you soon.
Yours in love and service,
Hawaii Area 17
Panel 67 Delegate