By Vince DiPasquale
“You can’t give to others what you don’t have.”
“Service is God’s gift to us so we can learn how to give and receive.”
May is one of the most beautiful and special months of the year. It is the month of new birth, flowers, a time when everything comes alive. For me, it is the month of my birth, 82 years ago. This month has always reminded me of how grateful I am for the gift of life and for all the wonderful special people God has sent me on my journey as my teachers. May reminds me to reflect on the gift of spirituality that God gave all of us at our births. God and the angels sent us on a spiritual journey into this world. The spirituality means that our purpose is to discover the spirit that makes us who we are. In our 12 Step program we are told in the 12th Step that after having had a spiritual awakening, we are to carry the message to others. We are told that if we do our work and give in the spirit of sharing with others, we will receive things beyond our wildest dreams.
Let’s take the time this month to reflect on the terms of spiritual awakening and service. Thomas Merton, a great spiritual author said, “No man is an island.” We can’t grow or discover our greatness alone. The steps remind us that recovery is a “WE” program. I would like to share with you some of the great teachers I have experienced on my spiritual journey. Two of my most special teachers were my parents and my family. I, like you, was born into a dysfunctional human family. Yet today I realize that to be human and dysfunctional is to be teachable. My Dad was truly a man of service to others. He was a giver who didn’t know how to receive. The lessons I learned from him was to set boundaries, make time for me, and to value who I am. Both my parents went through their struggles and unknowingly, they gave me tools to deal with my struggles. My crazy and wonderful Italian family gave me a PhD. in fear and guilt yet they taught me how to laugh at life.
Another great teacher was the Catholic Church. It gave me a great place to hide from life until I was ready to face it. In my twelve years in the seminary and twenty years in the priesthood, I experienced years filled with turmoil and confusion. Most of those years taught me how unmanageable my life was. I refer to them as the crazy yet beautiful years. However, there were so many teachable moments. I was on a journey to save the world, but I usually forgot to work on me. Morgan brought me to experience my first 12 Step Al-Anon meeting in 1969. Jack, my mentor in rehab in Philadelphia taught me the gift of humility. Then there were all the wonderful teachers in AA who shared their stories with me. I experienced many relationships at LaSalle University in my master’s program, especially Gerry, a Jesuit from Belgium, who taught me not to take life too seriously and to go with the flow. He was a special piece of my spiritual journey with his advice, “Never take the simple things for of life for granted, life is full of many adjustments. Things are always in process. Nothing stays the same so be open to change.” These were his spiritual words of wisdom. He was truly a man for all seasons.
In 1977 the Higher Power sent me to a simple house in South Philadelphia where with six other special people my journey with Starting Point began. In these simple conditions with our soup kitchen in the basement I was able to live there for three years. I experienced so many wonderful people who came into my life to help me begin the journey of Starting Point. I thought I was helping them, but, they were helping me.
In the early 80’s the Higher Power sent more teachers. My wife, Carol, came on the scene to teach me the value of getting healthy. A special holistic health doctor and her influence allowed me to face physical, emotional, and spiritual dysfunction. At that time, I didn’t know how important being healthy was. This journey led me to a whole new journey of responsibility and growth. The Higher Power sent me three beautiful stepdaughters and seven grandchildren who are special teachers in my life. This was my new Starting Point and the continuation of my spiritual journey. I learned that I was given a spiritual path that all of us can follow.
With all my background in theology, the greatest gift God gave me was the gift of the 12 Steps. I truly believe that the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were divinely inspired when these steps were put together. To me they developed the greatest spiritual program on the earth. They teach us that if we do our work, learn to accept who we are, discover our gifts, and then by the way we live our lives we will be an example to others. The greatest service we can give to others is the gift of self.
The month of May reminds me, and hopefully reminds all of us, to look at the life through the eyes of gratitude, love, and service to others. Enjoy these days of new birth.