Thursday, July 29, 2010
Custody of Recovery
Recovery has experienced many challenges over the years. At this time, we are going through what many other non-profits are experiencing -- the impact of a slow economic turn around. So once again we are challenged and have had to make changes. It has always been this way. The ebb and flow of our organization through the years has been noticed by some, but quite often, by very few. I came across this speech which Mom gave when Mrs. Low was still alive. I don't know what the event was, but I'm guessing it was the annual meeting. It seems like it's another reminder of what work and effort has gone into our Recovery family.
I have a friend who says that I always see more in a situation than is actually there. This may be true too, but I’d like to tell you an incident that happened last year during the Annual Meeting weekend, which I’m pretty sure you were not aware of.
First though, I’d like to say a few words about a subject that is near and dear to my heart… namely… myself.
I was raised in an old fashioned general store of the cracker barrel, pot-bellied stove variety. When my father died, my mother sold out the grocery business and concentrated entirely on women’s clothes. I used to accompany her when she went to the city on buying trips. Since I was in high school and very much interested in clothes my size, I used to love to go though the racks of dresses, and coats. I couldn’t understand why my mother picked out what I considered some ugly styles. One day my mother surprised me by wheeling out an empty rack and announcing that I was to select all of the junior size dresses that day. I will never forget the mixed emotions I had at that moment. Very much like a man watching his cantankerous mother-in-law go over a cliff in his new Cadillac. I felt pleased that my mother had so much trust in my ability. In fact I felt about nine feet tall. But rolling up on the heels of this pleasure was a distinct feeling of fear in meeting this responsibility. The task itself and its problems loomed very big to me at that point. I knew there was a trick to buying for a store. You were not to pick out just what pleased or fitted yourself, since girls come in all different shapes and sizes and have tastes different from one another. I thought about the money involved, perhaps several thousands of dollars. More than this I felt somehow that success or failure in this endeavor would mean a great deal to me from the standpoint of self-regard. To end this portion of my life’s story…I did fairly well, I guess with the buying because from that day on I did all of the junior size buying for our little shop.
Now to relate the incident that happened last year, as there are some similarities. Many of you who attended this meeting last year will remember that a letter was read from Mrs. Low announcing her retirement from active duty on the Board of Recovery. She did not attend the meeting, but chose this means of informing you, because she felt the atmosphere would be too charged with emotion and would be hard on her and difficult for all of us. As it was, when the letter was read, I saw many handkerchiefs flutter into view.
The incident I wish to relate happened just before the meeting. Mrs. Low and I had dinner alone in a downtown restaurant. When arrangements were made for this I thought Mrs. Low probably wanted to talk over the future of Recovery, perhaps setting out some guidelines for us. But strangely enough we chatted about everything imaginable except the subject that was uppermost in both of our minds. Before long we found ourselves in the Palmer House, where I was to take an elevator to my room to wash up before coming to this meeting. She was to take a taxi back to Evanston. I wondered now what this moment would hold for us. Mrs. Low very quickly took my hand and said, “I’m not going to say anything, Treasure. I’m just going to walk away.” And that’s just what she did. I stood there watching her as she walked down the corridor, never looking back.
I was amazed at my reaction. And maybe my friend is right and I was seeing more than was actually there. I’ll have to leave that up to you. But it seemed at that moment that I was just a symbol representing all of you and hundreds of thousands of us yet to hear of Recovery. And that Mrs. Low in taking my hand and then walking away had symbolically given us the custody of Recovery, Inc.
Up until that moment I had felt nothing but confidence that we could carry on the work of Recovery. But suddenly instead of feeling about “nine feet tall” I cringed with fear at the enormity of the responsibility you and I were undertaking.
You see, I began to think discursively about the fact that Dr. Low, a great physician, many call him a genius in his field, had spent his entire professional life on an idea. That he had staked his whole career on this idea and had given his talent, his genius, and his very life’s energy to the developing of this Idea: That nervous and former mental patients, could within the framework of his system, which was professionally developed, rely on themselves for self-leadership both on a personal basis and as a group organizationally.
I thought now with trepidation about some of the projects we were initiating such as our plan to bring people on to the Executive Board from New York, California, Canada and the Midwest. This program was to be widened even more a little later. This was going to be expensive. Would we be able to use good judgment or would we bankrupt Recovery? Somehow the self-help future of nervous and former mental patients, as a whole, seemed to rely on whether or not we succeeded in this venture.
Frankly when I walked in here last year, I felt scared, not of this meeting, but my heart was heavy with responsibility, and the question of whether we would be able to discharge this responsibility.
Then I heard Casper’s strong masculine voice open the meeting. I looked over and saw Phil, who has devoted his life to the same Idea that Dr. Low had. I saw Caroline at the back of the room, another good friend who is dedicated to the same Idea. I saw on this platform the Executive Board with whom I had worked for several years. The Area Leaders, the district leaders, leaders, assistant leaders and the membership, all fervently listening and ready to do whatever they could do towards this great Idea that Dr. Low had worked out.
Then I relaxed. Confidence returned. And I guess you would say that my Will to Fear was gone. I realized that certainly caution and some fear for the future of Recovery was called for because we have been entrusted with a very precious thing. But as far as good judgment was concerned, and as far as carrying out the responsibilities of Recovery, who, in all truth could do as well as we can do? In fact, who else can do the job?
I don’t think this is overconfidence. And I’ll tell you why:
1. We are especially suited because as Phil once said (and I was very impressed with this thought) “We have an ear for hearing things in Recovery that might escape others. It’s like a musician who hears certain sounds or chords that a non-musician would not hear.” We are tuned in on the same wavelength.
2. Secondly, since we have been trained to Spot for ourselves, we are in a good position to have healthy introspection as an organization. We can honestly face our weaknesses and ways in which we are sabotaging our own goals as an organization and do something to correct them.
3. We know that Recovery as an organization is a long range goal. We have been trained to WAIT and wait patiently. Therefore, we can move slowly and stick to our program with steadfastness, courage, determination, no matter how long it takes to accomplish our purpose.
I’m not going to go into what has already been accomplished during this first year since you and I were given custody of Recovery. You will hear the Annual Report. You will hear from several people who are in areas that have not let any grass grow under their feet this year. Recovery has been given to us for safekeeping. Personally, I don’t think it could be in better hands. The question is are we going to accept this challenge?