Growing up I had three sisters. My dad was a fireman: at home for 48 hours but then at work for 24 hours. So every third day I was the only male in the house. Brotherly love was not a concept I grew up learning.
In the fourth grade, I was allowed to visit a classmate’s house alone. He and I hung out with his older brother. That brother was nice enough on the school playground, but in the privacy of the family home he was a terror to his sibling and, by extension, to me. That was my first understanding of brotherly love.
Years later my parents’ surprise child was born, a beautiful baby boy. I left for college just when that boy was getting old enough to be interesting. He learned brotherly love from me while trying to play a small joke on a Sunday morning. He splashed water in the face of his hung over, passed out, older brother. I lashed out of my stupor and smashed the small container he used, a shot glass I had stolen the night before, in his face. The glass survived unscathed. My ten-year-old brother had to visit the dentist the next morning to have his front tooth capped, which I had chipped in my anger.
A shot glass I had stolen the night before
Many things changed when I eventually ceased drinking one day at a time. Our literature chronicled how such changes played out among its authors. Those now following their path are promised many things, some of which might be considered extravagant. I, like most, just reply in earnest “We think not” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 84-84). My experience, and that of others too I think, is the “juice comes with the squeeze,” but we must be painstaking in the process. For if we are painstaking, we do find a whole new attitude and outlook upon life has taken us over, and we have lost interest in selfish things and have gained interest in our fellows. This is brotherly love as I now know and understand it. Buoyed by the training wheels of progress, not perfection, we work daily to live it.
I have received brotherly love too often for it to be a coincidence. If attending a new meeting, I walk in, see the literature set out, empty chairs available and think, “Ah, I’m home.” Whether in a foreign city for business or pleasure, the experience seems universal to me. I have heard many others say this was their experience too. In my case, some of the men I interacted with at those meetings are still on my speed dial. This is but a facet of the brotherly love given to me in our program.
When COVID-19 hit things changed again, just not like anyone ever quite expected. For our literature tells us how the spiritual principle underlying Step Three had its first major test in World War II (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 38). Anyone who has the disease from which I suffer has landed upon the beachhead of loneliness in the COVID-19 war and may, like me, be struggling to stay alive as surely as if they were on a Salerno beachhead. I have found in that battle, my tool of brotherly love works as both a sword and a shield.
Works as both a sword and a shield
At Zoom meetings, I cut through my loneliness by reaching out as a virtual sponsor to those in need. While quite different from my experience in the most obvious ways, the power of service in the effort has staved off more than one assault where I fight my battle with my disease.
Recently, my brothers abroad in New Zealand have been my shield against my disease. My favorite Zoom group meets daily with the same blunt honesty as my 7:00 a.m. meetings in the States. With virtual open arms the Kiwis welcomed this Yank to share their experience, strength and hope. They exuded brotherly love through the two dimensions of Zoom and kept me living in the fourth dimension of sobriety. For their brotherly love and that of others in this program I am and will be forever grateful.