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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 12 10 21 - - Go Forth You, for the Light That Is You

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” ― L.R. Knost

This has been a phenomenal week of connection for me. I was able to travel out to Pittsburgh to

support the 2021 Lost Dreams Awakening Holiday Gala on Sunday. On Tuesday, on to Kent CT to take in the rich history of High Watch Recovery. Established in 1939 in part by the founders of AA as a spiritual retreat, with many iterations since then. I traveled there to meet with Greg Williams and talk about what High Watch Media is doing. We talked about our rich history. Then, off to CCAR (Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery) to spend time with the “father of recovery coaching” Phil Valentine, and to see Connecticut recovery in action. Phil said something quite similar to the quote above in his interview with me earlier this year. He said he would tell future leaders “To follow the light within themselves, it will illuminate the world.” A powerful truth. A wise and humble man. I have a lot to process from the last few days.

I got to experience fellowship with talented people who share common cause and believe in the power of recovery to save lives and restore community this week. Custodians of recovery. I also got to share a good bit about our history and understand even a little better how, at critical times, the recovery community has been able to rise above the challenges thrown at it and build something better for those who came next. Recovery advocacy involves stewardship.

We face a lot of challenges, but truth be told, we always have. I recently ran across an interview with Bruce Holley Johnson, PhD whose 1973 dissertation The Alcoholism Movement in America: A Study in Cultural Innovation has been helpful to recovery historians in understanding our history. He described the movement as “diffuse, factionalized, and strife-ridden.” That may sound familiar to some readers familiar with how things seem right now in the recovery community. Made all the more challenging when the allocation of resources favor groups who benefit from and increase such disunity. My more recent focus on interviewing persons who participated in the formation of the new recovery advocacy movement is the fact that they managed to rise above these challenges, work together to develop things that met the needs of the community. They accomplished so very much. They were not superhuman, they just kept working together towards solution.

Thinking beyond recovery, the story of the country I grew up in was a nation who did hard stuff and stood for a set of ideals, not always, and not perfectly but with intention. We did not always succeed, but we tried. Doing hard stuff is in our national ethos. The very foundation of our country is acceptance of different groups and the open contemplation of ideas from various perspectives. A system of governance designed to keep power in check and to elevate those ideas with the greatest merit to the top. People who believed in building something better took on huge problems and worked together to fix them. The shining light on the hill we strived to be. It is also something that can be seen in healthy recovery environments as well. Mutual respect and unity in purpose despite other differences.

America is described as the greatest experiment in self-governance for good reason. History shows us the tendency for groups with more power to subjugate those with less power and to lock up control over all the resources. Authoritarianism is the norm through human history, not the exception. America, from its very inception has been deeply flawed and riddled with incongruences. Yet we remain a beacon in a world where self-governance rarely works. We are not perfect but strive to do better and to be better. As noted in the preamble of our Constitution “to form a more perfect union.” This is our mission statement. We have benefited from the shared intention of prior generations. Their wisdom, their sacrifices, their willingness to work through very real contentions to sustain this less than perfect form of government. We can keep it if we decide that it is worth it. I say it still is. It will require hard work, love, and intention. I guess there are some recovery messages woven into these themes as well.

History is replete with examples of how people have managed to overcome adversity and build something better. A lot seems broken around us in the world today because so much is broken. But the world has always been a broken place. And we also know that attention flows where energy goes. We get more broken when we focus on the dividers and the breakers than the uniters and solvers. As we drive a car in the direction we look, it is time to refocus our gaze on solutions. My area of focus is recovery, but any reader out there can pick an issue or a situation and work towards changing it for the positive. Then, find allies. Such effort can be restorative, take my word for it.

One of the news stories that really resonated with me this week was on Army Col. Edward Shames, the last remaining member of World War II's 'Band of Brothers,' who died at age 99. Maybe it resonated with me as it was the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Perhaps it is thinking of what he did and endured and the life he built upon his return.

A passage that jumped out me in the article:

"In Germany, he was the first member of the 101st to enter Dachau concentration camp, just days after its liberation. When Germany surrendered, Shames and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler's Eagle's Nest where Shames managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, a label indicating they were 'for the Fuhrer's use only.' Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son's Bar Mitzvah, according to the obituary."

I thought about what that might have been like for Colonel Shames. I can see him in my mind’s eye lifting a glass of Adolf Hitlers personal store of cognac to toast his son becoming a man at his Bar Mitzvah. Something he dared not dream of when he was in the depths of war. That is what he chose to use Hitlers personal stash of booze for. How symbolic of light over darkness in so many ways. We need these narratives in our dark times.

I am quite positive he was raising that glass for more than his son’s coming of age, he was raising it for all his lost buddies who never got to see their sons and daughter coming of age, or any other milestone because of the war against the most evil dictator of the 20th Century. He may have even toasted the fact that when people rally against evil and decide to stand for good things, eventually such things win out over darkness. I think we owe Shames and his lost buddies our best effort with our time here. In my case, I work in memory of all those we have needlessly lost from addiction. There are many other causes worthy of focus. As the quote leading this article says, “the broken world awaits you and your light within.” Rest in Peace, Colonel Shames. I toast you and the light you were, sir.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is one from Fred Rodgers when he said “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” But he was actually talking to five-year-old kids. As adults, we have an obligation to be that helper, not look for the grownups to help us, but to actually be one. If you are feeling down or overwhelmed by all the negativity and strife (not sure how anyone could not) become a helper. Find your light within and work towards solution. Go pick something, big or small and go do it with intention, love, and integrity. If you seemingly fail at it, you are not done, keep going, until you get to your goal. That mentality is how we accomplished big stuff as a people.

I am grateful to have spent a lot of my time this week with people who are helpers, fixers and builders of things that help people and communities heal. Islands of recovery. People motivated by hope, purpose, and connection. In a world seemingly lost in darkness, I am grateful to spend time with people who shine light from within and the desire to share that light with others. Grateful for the lessons in history of how we can overcome horrific things, most often when we come together to do so.

What are you grateful for today?

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