by Dale W. E. Izawa
As a recovered alcoholic for nearly twelve years, I could write a book about how much I owe to Alcoholics Anonymous and Ken B., my first sponsor. His love and unwavering dedication to other alcoholics come back to me on an almost daily basis.
In November 2004 my stepdaughter lay dying of cancer in the hospital. Being retired, I was the “late shift,” staying through the night with her while working family members got badly needed sleep.
I took a short break outside to walk and stretch. Coming back, I re-entered the hospital through the emergency room, and noticed a young man at a payphone, hanging up the receiver.
He asked where the coffee machine was. Since it was on my way, I offered to show him. As we walked, he told me he’d gotten a call from his brother, telling him their mother had been in an auto accident and was in intensive care.
But he had come to the wrong hospital and needed to get to a city about 50 miles away. Unfortunately, he was out of money and gas. He told me he’d been at his building maintenance job when he’d gotten the call and had left immediately.
My first thought was the same as most people’s might be: he’s just a panhandler. But I looked closer — his clothes were paint-splattered and drywall dust still clung to his shoulders.
I remembered a conversation with my sponsor Ken B. about unselfish acts. He said Mother Teresa had done so much good because she wanted to live in a world where those acts of kindness and love could occur. It was up to her to do her part to create that world.
Reaching into my wallet, I pulled out my last five-dollar bill and gave it to him. That would give him enough gas to visit his mother and drive home afterward. When he offered to repay it I told him, “You may or may not be what you say. That’s none of my business. If you want, keep a five tucked in your billfold to give to someone else in need.”
When I told someone else about the incident, I was asked, “Why?” The unspoken message was that I’d been taken advantage of.
Recalling the conversation with Ken B., I pointed out that it was a win-win thing for me. If the story were true I’d been able to help this man see his mother, possibly for the last time. If not, then a woman was not in a hospital bed faced with a long and painful recovery. What a relief to know that!
I choose to live in a world in which a person can reach out in a time of need and a stranger will be there to do what they need the most. In recovery, I have been given back that choice, thanks to Ken B.