Where hope rises

Where hope rises

At 7:40 the room begins to fill.  By 10 of eight thick sets of keys and worn paperbacks save empty seats.  By 8 p.m. it’s standing room only.

My husband and I are attending an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in southern Miami.  We’re in the large, dimly-lit social hall of a Lutheran church not far from the interstate.  Seated next to me in clean tee shirt and shorts is my 28-year-old son, the reason we are here, the reason we have attended dozens of open meetings like this one both with and without him.

I come to AA to understand.  Not what got these “kids” here, but what keeps them here and what keeps them clean and healthy.

It‘s a Saturday night and apparently this is the place to be.   I observe right away that there’s something different about this meeting.  Less ink on skin.  Fewer earrings and silver jewelry.  Not even a glint of gold encircling a wrist or across a boot.  The look is softer, older, more muted.

Some 150 men and women fill the room.  They are doctors, lawyers (for some reason, lots of lawyers), IT professionals, tradesmen, and students.  Together we say the Serenity Prayer, listen for the twelve steps-reading, and then sit rapt as the first speaker, a 31-year-old raven-haired woman, tells how joy fills her life – now.  Next at the podium is a tall, thin young man in a pressed, gray suit.  He quips that his ego better not interfere with telling his life’s story, one of setbacks and second chances, heavily laced with humor and self-deprecation.

Yes, this meeting is different from others we have attended in South Florida.  The veneer has worn away.  There’s an authenticity in both the greetings and partings that must be born of years of recovery, working the steps, facing one’s shortcomings, and emerging whole, reborn. Men embrace one another long and openly.  The words “I love you” pass between them solemn as a prayer. Comradery curls ‘round their conversations and fills the warm air with a certainty that there will be a tomorrow for these men and women.  They can count on it.  They can count on each other.

For my son to find this here – a bond surely as strong and perhaps even stronger than any formed in a college dorm or frat house or campus hi-rise – I push back tears of gratitude.  It’s so available, right here in this warm open hall, for anyone who wants it.

In this Miami church – as in so many others –  hope rises.

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