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following story, apparently by Felicia Gizycka M., Alcoholics
Anonymous author of Stars Dont Fall in the second
and third editions. The Lady and the Bum followed her AA
Grapevine article over seventeen previously in the November
1967 issue, At Last No Longer Apart.
Lady and the Bum
only difference was AA
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1985
long ago, I went into New York from the suburb where I live,
to do some shopping and then meet an AA friend for dinner.
I shopped too long and walked too far, carrying packages.
There was I, just after my seventy-eighth birthday, feeling
depressed and sorry for myself. So many of my friends in
New York have died or moved away. It was about an hour before
my early dinner date. I was a poor, elderly orphan with
no place to go.
Where could I go and sit down? I found myself saying, "God
help me." My lips moved. People will see you talking
to yourself, I thought; they'll think you're senile. So
now I prayed silently, "God help me not to feel this
And then I saw this little coffee shop on 58th Street. I
went in gratefully to sit down at a table, dump my packages,
and order a cup of coffee.
have to sit at the counter," the waitress said.
so tired, and I have all these packages."
a three-dollar cover charge."
don't care," I said.
As soon as she'd served me, a poor, ragged, dirty, unshaven
man came up to me and asked me for a dollar. "I need
it for food," he said.
The manager, who was standing in back of the counter, shook
his head. Then he said, "Go on! Get out of here."
The man's hands were shaking. "Please, quick!"
he begged me. "Quick! Just a dollar."
The manager said, "Lady, don't give it to him. He's
just a bum. He'll spend it on booze."
course he will," I said. "He needs a drink. He
has to have one."
I whipped out a dollar, and the man snatched it, said, "Thanks,"
go doing that for?" the manager wanted to know. "Now
we'll have a bunch of them in here."
know what it is to be desperate for a drink," I told
him. "I'm an arrested alcoholic. The only difference
between that man and me is that I've stopped drinking. If
I had one drink, I'd go on and get drunk and be just like
I suppose you'd look like him? Come on, lady! You're a nice
quite a few years ago, I was anything but!"
got to be kidding," said the manager, who then turned
away to wait on customers.
But it's true, of course. I was never as filthy as that
poor man, but the difference between us was purely economic.
I did not hit skid row. But if I'd been broke, I would have.
Thank God, I found AA and a wonderful sponsor. I've been
sober and going to meetings for a good many years. I keep
working the Twelve Steps, I try to help others.
As I sat there resting and drinking my coffee, I thought
of the time I'd paced back and forth in front of a bar opposite
Grand Central Station. I was hoping desperately that it
would open before I had to catch my train. It was just a
few minutes before opening time. Could I run in there, gulp
a quick one, and run for my train? But the bar did not open
on time. I shook like a leaf all the way to my suburban
destination. The kind friends who met me at the station
had to wait while I went and got a drink.
Now, a young woman came up to my table and stood there smiling.
She said, "That was very nice of you, giving that man
he needed a drink," I said.
I know," she said. "I heard what you told the
manager." She patted my arm.
I began feeling good. Why, here I was, sober, solvent, happy,
and healthy, with work I enjoy and lots of people left whom
I love. Of course, I miss my friends who have gone, but
perhaps I'll see them again someday.
I felt even better when the waitress handed me my check,
which was for sixty cents. "I can't charge you three
dollars when you gave that poor fellow a dollar," she
New Canaan, Connecticut
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1985
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