On Friday Peter and I went to a birthday party for someone he works with. I didn't know much about this person but had been told by Peter he was a good guy that had seen some hard times in his life.
When I got to the restaurant where I expected to find a small group of people waiting to surprise the birthday boy I found instead an enormous room full of at least 75 people. I looked around and thought wow, this guy has a lot of friends.
As I sat at the table I asked the couple sitting across from us who all of these people were and was told they were from his association with AA. Having not had a whole lot of experience with alcoholics you can imagine this was an eye opener. But I thought that was nice and joked with Peter about the fact that we'd probably not see anyone drinking and that if it came right down to it we could all use AA type groups for different aspects of our lives.
After the guest of honor arrived, a humble, rather weather-beaten and very surprised looking man, they had everyone in the room stand, in turn, and tell how they knew him. What I heard was incredibly inspirational. Each and every person in that room had been touched in one way or another by this man who has been through hell and back in his life. Each of them shared how blessed they are to know him and how they look up to him as he has been a "sponsor" in their personal roads to recovery. I can only imagine how many AA meetings he has driven people to as dozens of them spoke of how he had picked them up at ridiculously early times in the morning and throughout the day to go to meetings together. There has obviously been countless hours he has spent in his life devoted to helping others through their darkest days.
There was a lot about AA I never knew that I learned at this party. Some people go three times a day when they are trying to fight their demons and pull their lives back together. One moment I especially remember was when a woman thanked him for helping her husband because in helping to save her husband he saved her life as well. There were lots of tears, and jokes going around about crazy situations in which he had picked them up from jail, or rehab, or stuck in the middle of nowhere they could all laugh about now but must have been terribly difficult at the time.
I can imagine these people have all had a time in their life when they "hit bottom" and felt alone and desperate in a way no one would ever wish on anyone. The hopelessness was probably almost more than they could bear and yet here they all were, looking from many respects just like regular folks. I would have never suspected most of these people to have a drinking problem had I seen them in any other situation.
Stories of redemption are my absolute favorite thing. What an incredible and inspirational experience it was to be there for this event-- being an eyewitness to a person hearing all the things we may never take the time to say to one another. It was difficult for him I could see, but I sure appreciated being able to see it. It was like an early present for my birthday tomorrow-- a celebration of an very imperfect life made wonderful through sacrifice and service and true atonement is the greatest celebration there could ever be!
That night Peter left straight from the restaurant to finish packing and disassembling his desk for the big move they were planning on the next day as the firm was relocating. Everyone has been in a frenzy getting ready with all the particulars of the phones, files, hiring staff, etc. He got home late that night and went in to supervise the movers the next day. His co-worker, the aforementioned guest of honor, was there after spending all night in a hotel room taking turns helping someone "detox,"which is basically where you sit and watch a person to make sure they don't drown in their own vomit.
Wow. Makes you think about your problems in a different light doesn't it?