Before I joined Unity, I discovered the grace of being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Little did I know that my journey in AA was preparing me for my love of Unity. One incident in particular from my AA experience aligns perfectly with the principles and spirit of Unity.
At the time, I was living in San Francisco, which offered a wide range of AA meetings, including those specifically for the gay community, for young people, for only men or only women, and those held in different languages. The first year I was in AA, I would investigate various meetings to see which ones felt right for me. One meeting I attended was held at a free medical clinic located at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets.
The Haight-Ashbury meeting appealed to me because it attracted many old-timers who gave me much needed encouragement. Often, the person leading the meeting was somewhat new to the AA program. This gave a novice the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of conducting a meeting according to the program’s guidelines.
One morning, the meeting was packed with a group of AAers sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs. The small room, which normally served as the reception area for the clinic, opened directly onto Haight Street with its colorful array of homeless people, overage hippies, tourists, and local homeowners. The leader of the meeting faced the doorway, while the others faced the leader. A folding table with free coffee and donuts sat next to the entrance. The leader was obviously new, and he was struggling to get everything right. The old-timers were very supportive of his fumbling efforts.
During the course of the meeting, a homeless man opened the door, poured himself a cup of coffee, grabbed a donut, and left. The members ignored this slight intrusion, but it was obvious the leader was not happy about this interloper partaking in our meager buffet. The third time the outsider came in for a java refill, the leader exploded, yelling at the man in no uncertain terms that he was not to darken our doorway again.
The room went silent. Then one by one, the old-timers each shared a personal story of how they had handled a similar situation. As is the custom in AA meetings, we don’t offer advice or criticism. Instead, we share our experience, strength, and hope.
After the fourth person told their story, the leader held up his hand and said, “Wait a minute, everybody.” He ran out the door and tracked down the homeless coffee drinker, bringing him back inside and to the front of the room. The leader then apologized to him for yelling. Next, he poured the man a cup of coffee. I don’t remember the leader’s name, but I will never forget his remarkable ability to recognize his inappropriate behavior and make amends on the spot.
Decades later, I recognized how that incident and other experiences I had in AA had actually laid the foundation for my entry into Unity. Just as the higher God consciousness of those AA members recognized the Christ in the leader as they expressed themselves in a respectful, nonjudgmental manner, the 12 steps of AA helped me connect with my own Higher Power and lead a life of integrity.
Unity, I discovered, expands on that consciousness with its teachings and its five core principles. Unity also gave me the grace to know that there is only one presence and one power in my life—and that I am (as are the homeless man, AA members, and all of humanity) the essence of God.
This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.