When A.A.s talk about service, they generally mean making coffee for the group, acting as general service representative, answering phones at the local central office, or taking meetings to a hospital or prison. But beyond these familiar activities, our members engage in numerous quiet, lesser known forms of A.A. service to help ensure that the hand of the Fellowship is always there.
John M. is one of those quiet servants. For nearly 20 years he has been listed in the Loners/Internationalists Directory as a Port Contact for seagoing A.A.s who dock at Portland, Oregon. Port Contacts are A.A. members who make themselves available to alcoholics on ships who spend many months at sea, without access to meetings or A.A. companionship, and need an A.A. presence when they reach land.
Portland is a major grain exporting city, where ships from all over the world dock at the grain elevators on the Columbia River, often for weeks at a time. The crews have few opportunities to get off the ships. John reports that in his time as Port Contact, he has rarely received a call. Wanting to be more active, he got in touch with the staff member on the Loners/Internationalists desk at the General Service Office, who suggested that he could write to new Internationalists, as well as occasionally to Loners and homebound A.A.s. He says that he receives few replies, but knows that it’s important to carry the message and not focus on the results. “You never know when something will strike a chord.
“Every few months, I stuff an envelope with old Grapevines and other A.A. literature, address it to ‘The Master’ (the captain), and take it aboard one of the ships docked at the grain elevators here.” John says he got the idea when he read somewhere that Captain Jack, who founded the Internationalists, used to go out to the ships and toss a package of literature up on the deck. In today’s security conscious world, it’s tougher to get aboard a ship, “but I tell the guard it’s reading material for the crew. He probably thinks I’m delivering tracts from a church.
“When I was newly sober, I made a trip on a tug. A previous occupant of my bunk had written all the Steps and Traditions on the bottom of the upper bunk – great reading material before going to sleep. I like to think that my ‘deliveries’ may reach some foreign seaman and guide him into our wonderful Fellowship before it’s too late.
“While I certainly paid my dues (marriage and family wreckage, etc.), I feel I have received more than my share of the benefits of sobriety. Financial recovery came fairly easy; leveling off the highs and lows has taken a lot longer.
I even got married again (‘The Great Calming,’ my children called it). And when we were laying out our nonnegotiables, my wife-to-be told me that if I ever drink again, we’ll be through. I’m glad she said that. My alcoholic brain would always be looking for a loophole.”As published in News and Notes from the General Service Office of A.A. ® Box 459 Vol. 51, No.4 / Aug-Sep 2005 www.aa.org