“Sponsorship is not placing someone in authority over you; it’s asking someone to hold you accountable.”
I got this definition from Mr. Sponsorpants, and I liked it so much, I wrote it down and taped it to my computer.
Funny thing is how well it works in reverse.
My sponsor used to tell me that one day I’d be blessed with a bug that was attracted to my light. That’s how she described her sponsees, as her little bugs.
I hoped so. I had no idea how well I’d be blessed.
Sponsorship is truly a case of getting back more than I give. It’s a case of getting back what I didn’t know I needed.
I thought about this weekend as I received a gratitude list from a sponsee.
I usually talk about gratitude early on with my sponsees under the category of recommended practices:
Attend two Al-Anon meetings and one open AA or NA meeting a week, pray on your knees at least once a day, read one of Al-Anon’s books of daily meditations each day and practice some form of gratitude every day.
I usually leave the gratitude part open ended. I suggest they might put their gratitude list in a prayer, write it in a journal, post it on the Internet, e-mail it to someone. “Try different things and do what works for you,” I say.
My own method has always been to pray my gratitude list first thing in the morning. I try to limit it to things I’m grateful for for the last 24 hours, to keep from repeating myself. I can always fall back on “that I have a roof over my head, that I have enough to eat, reliable transportation, my husband…” the things I’m grateful for every day. But I try to stretch myself.
It’s worked for me. The more I practice gratitude, the more grateful I become. I begin to see gratitude in everything.
Sometimes, with my sponsees, gratitude is prescriptive. If a sponsee is really down and can’t seem to see anything positive, I usually start asking questions about their gratitude practice.
One sponsee, in particular, was having a problem with her practice. She could never think of anything to put on the list beyond one thing, and it was the same thing every day.
“Is she e-mailing you her list?” my sponsor asked when I talked with her about it. “She needs to be accountable.”
And that’s how it started. She e-mailed me a list. I e-mailed one back.
I e-mailed my list to encourage her and to give her some examples. Perhaps she’d be inspired by something on my list and realize that she, too, was grateful for that.
Funny thing is, the exercise started to affect me in ways I hadn’t envisioned. I never thought I had a problem with gratitude, but sharing my list with someone else brought it to a whole new level.
Gratitude is an intimate thing. If you know what a person is grateful for on a daily basis, you truly know something about their heart. If you share your gratitude with someone else, you begin see the outlines of your own.
I found that the daily contact with my sponsee made me feel closer to her. I knew something about what was happening in her life each and every day. My heart expanded just a little.
So did my gratitude. I found myself noticing things as I went through the day. I was grateful for the bird singing outside my window, for the sharpness of my knife as it flawlessly sliced a tomato. I made mental notes for possible inclusion in my list. But when my sponsee's list came in, I found a whole new list emerged. It’s been fascinating.
So now, I encourage the practice with all my sponsees. With every list I receive, my gratitude expands exponentially.
So today, as I think of gratitude, I realize I am grateful for my sponsees. I'm greateful for their unexpected gifts. I'm grateful for the way they hold me accountable.