I was meeting some friends today to go to an event. Due to heavy traffic and event parking limitations, we agreed to meet somewhere then head over in one car. I suggested my church parking lot, on the near north side of downtown. One of the guys didn’t want to meet there as he was afraid to leave his car “in the ghetto.” So, we agreed to meet at one of the local Catholic school’s parking lot’s in a trendy part of town near the event. Turns out, this was the school my friend attended as a youngster. In the end, I parked my car and we rode in his car. As we were leaving the area, he asked “Did you lock your car?” When I answered yes and asked why, he told us that when he was growing up, he used to come to the lot and check for unlocked cars and steal their change. He didn’t want anything to be stolen from my car. Hmmm… Funny how we see in others what we are sometimes afraid to see in ourselves.
I tell this story because I’ve heard the same comment from other friends about attending certain self help group meetings in different neighborhoods around the city. One guy said he didn’t care for a certain meeting room because it was “in the ghetto.” His comment has always stuck with me simply because of my life experience with respect to diversity. Funny thing – I learned early on in recovery, as I sat in a treatment center with men & women who were from various ethnic backgrounds, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc…we all had the same story. We all had our bottom. We all fell victim to the same disease. It didn’t matter if I was homeless, or a chief executive…a housewife or an auto mechanic. This disease is the great equalizer. And, if I look for the differences instead of the similarities, I run the risk of missing the gift of someone’s experience, strength and hope. And it is that gift, along with the grace and love of my Higher Power, that helps keep me clean and sober…and one day may literally save my life.
Tonight, I went to a self-help meeting “in the ghetto.” I was the only white man in the room, and one of only a handful of white people out of the 30+ in the room. I may also have been the only gay man. There was one woman in a wheelchair. The youngest was probably in his early 20’s…the oldest was in her late 60’s. Bottom line, there was diversity. And yet as we went around the room and shared, there was nothing different in the stories than I would have heard in one of my more regular meetings where I’m less of a minority. And I connected with something that each person had to share — heard a couple insights that gave me a different way of approaching a couple areas in my life — and left feeling just as energized, peaceful and inspired as I have almost every meeting. There is no better than or worse than — we truly are equal. Even outside of addiction, we are all blessed children of a loving God / Higher Power, however we are able to see and understand Him/Her. And to put labels and hierarchy is such a shame…such a missed opportunity.
I pray that my Higher Power continues to grace me with eyes to see and ears to hear…and where I fall short, the willingness to admit my faults and forgive myself. In doing so, I’m in a better position to love others and see their brokenness as the same, no better or worse than mine.