In A.A. November is Gratitude Month
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For many decades now, we in the Fellowship have formally carved out from the calendar the month of November as a time to express our collective gratitude for our individual sobriety. Interestingly, no one is exactly sure why that month was originally chosen, though its connection with Thanksgiving seems obvious. A.A. co-founder, Bill W., thought for a while that his sobriety had begun in November, but later calculations established the date of his new beginnings as December 11.
Misty origins notwithstanding, Gratitude Month has, since the 1940s, been November and our shared thank- fulness over the years has taken many forms and will continue to do so as our membership widens.
The General Service Board began giving small gratitude dinners in the 1940s. These were precursors to the much larger Gratitude Luncheons that were orchestrated during the 1960s as a Public Information effort of G.S.O.
A.A. Traditions were the undeniable anchor of our new sober life, Bill W. thought when he wrote, “What then could be more appropriate than to set aside Thanksgiving week for discussion of the practical and spiritual values to be discovered in our Traditions?” The Traditions, he wrote in November 1949, “are a distillate of our experience of living and working together. They apply the spirit of the Twelve recovery Steps to our group life and security.” (The Language of the Heart, p. 96) The first sealed and approved, official recognition of an A.A. “Gratitude Week,” to be specifically designated to coincide with Thanksgiving week, dates back to 1956. That year, at the Sixth General Service Conference, delegates approved a motion to that effect, stipulating that “this action be noted in the annual pre - Thanksgiving appeals to the groups for funds to help support A.A.’s worldwide services.”
Carrying the message, expressing gratitude, as well as wanting to make a gesture of appreciation for the numerous published articles, books
and radio and TV interviews relating to A.A. that year, were what motivated a number of Gratitude Luncheons. These were held, always in November, during the 1960s at New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel—where, incidentally, members of the media who might care to have a drink, were assured, in the invitation by General Service Board chairman (nonalcoholic) Dr. John L. Norris, that “cocktails will be served at 12:15 in the Library, and the luncheon will end promptly at 2:00 p.m.”
Well-attended functions, these luncheons drew a sizable, wide-ranging representation from the media, and G.S.O. Archives served a double purpose: to thank the writers and commentators who attended for their contributions to A.A. in the preceding year and to, in the words of a G.S.O. memo written at the time, “advance A.A.’s public relations by bringing editors, publishers, writers and broad- casters in personal contact with sources of reliable information on the movement.” A typical list of invitees to the 1965 luncheon, who had published articles and books on the Fellowship were from The New York Times, Medical World News, McCall’s Magazine, Macmillan Publishing Company, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other news and publishing organizations.
Bill W. always addressed the gatherings, as did Dr. Norris, and, in addition to a question and answer period at the end of the proceedings, there was always plenty of A.A. literature available for the guests to take along. In 1965, Bill sent an autographed copy of the newly-released A.A. Comes of Age to each guest.
Although those who came to the luncheons found them helpful and informative, the board thought they were too expensive a way to say thank you, when a letter from Bill, after an article or TV production was completed,
would have been enough. Others voiced the opinion that more cooperation offered on articles or radio and TV spots might have been more helpful. In any event, the luncheons were discontinued in 1968.
Gratitude. We all know it serves us best when it’s kept alive, in our individual lives and in our group conscience. Realizing this, countless A.A. groups over the years have used the month of November (for Canadian groups, it’s October), to open the door of gratitude even wider. It’s a sure way of insuring a continued healthy sobriety, group unity, and to avoid complacency and stagnation. Many groups observe Gratitude Month by holding Traditions meetings and taking up special contributions to the General Service Office for A.A. services worldwide.
This is an opportunity for all A.A.s to think of new and expanding ways to express and share their grati- tude. For example, groups could hold topic meetings during the month on the power and different faces of gratitude: “How Grateful Are We?”; “Gratitude is not Passive”; “Giving it Away.”
How about trying something new, something your group has never done before, which will make the members’ gratitude more tangible and real?
Traditions meetings, of course, always bring home to us all over again the richness of our A.A. heritage, strengthening not only our gratitude but the sobriety of A.A.s, old and new.
In deepening our appreciation of A.A.’s Traditions during Thanksgiving week, Bill wrote, “We could thus reinforce our faith in the future by these prudent works; we could show that we deserve to go on receiving that priceless gift of oneness which God in his wisdom has so freely given to us of Alcoholics Anonymous in the precious years of our infancy.” (ibid.)
So how about it? Let’s give Gratitude a real send-off this year!
Reprinted from Box 4-5-9, Oct./Nov. 1994.