In Good Hands

In Good Hands

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

In Good Hands

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

George Iles

“My name is Judie, and I’m an alcoholic,” I hear her say. From the minute I walk into the room, it’s easy to see where this group is anchored. The first table on the left, that’s where she sits every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

With her hands wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee, she says, “You gotta get honest and you gotta get God. I didn’t get this program right away. First, I lost my husband, then, my child, and my last drink took my mind. Now I’m bipolar and on medication. But by the grace of God, I’m sober today.”

That’s what she tells the newcomers, and anyone else fortunate enough to be sitting there. She tells us what we have to do and how we have to do it. It’s not always polite, but it’s honest. “Bull! You’re a liar,” she’ll spit. And you know it’s true. But she loves us back to health, sometimes to our families, usually to our jobs, and mostly back to life.

I phone her early; she’s up by four and sometimes out by six for the early commuter’s meeting. If I miss her, it’s her message that delivers exactly what I need. “I can’t come to the phone right now, but God loves you and so do I. Have a great day, and I’ll call you later.”

Her couch is a haven to those in need. With barely enough for herself, she shares whatever she has with anyone ready to work a twelve-step program.

“Happy sixty-fifth birthday!” A few of the people she guides through the twelve steps of recovery organize an impromptu celebration for Judie. Janine, a close friend, hands her a diamond necklace.

“It’s the circle of life,” Janine gushes.

Judie’s eyes open brightly and her mouth stretches into a wider smile. “This is too much,” she says. “It’s beautiful.”

Janine tilts her head closer to Judie’s. “It was meant for you.” She lovingly pats her back.

Judie takes off the cross and gold chain that has glittered brightly around her neck since the day her mother gave them to her, not long before she passed. She hands the chain to one of her newly sober girls, then gives the cross to another. “That’s the circle of life.”

This is typical Judie, a grateful recovering alcoholic sharing every one of God’s graces.

“I’m no Mother Teresa,” she often says. But I’m not so sure. Whether we have less or more, it makes no difference to her. She makes no judgment, gives only love and acceptance.

I don’t know where this tall, thin, gray-haired lady gets the strength to lift up so many. It’s a tough world alcoholics come from, and Judie has lived to tell the tale. After twenty-eight years of working this program, she has become a power of example for many. The definition of courage, she lives with three cats in a studio apartment that sits atop a long flight of stairs. She defies the odds on a daily basis as she struggles against emphysema and poverty. “I may not have everything I want, but God always gives me what I need,” she often says.

Yet, she has more to give than any ten people I’ve known. It’s a language of love she communicates, one day at a time, every day of her life. Sharing her experience, strength, and hope, Judie is a testimony to faith and sobriety.

Once again it’s Tuesday, and Judie is seated at her table. She’s wearing a gray warm-up suit with cat hairs dangling precariously in every direction; between her hands sits a Styrofoam cup, the steam rising above the rim. A newcomer ambles through the door. Naturally, it’s Judie who pushes her coffee aside and makes her way across the room to extend a hand and say, “Welcome.” I smile because I remember a hundred years ago, or maybe it was yesterday, that new girl was me. She has no idea what she’s in for. But I do. And for today . . . she’s in good hands.

Pamela Hirson

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