Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Compassion and Kinkos

There used to be a chain of copy and printing shops called Kinkos. They were bought out by FedEx a few years ago, and now bear the FedEx brand.

Though I used to have to go to Kinkos a lot during my business travels, the need to go there has waned over the years with the advent of office centers in the hotels I were I stay when traveling. This change is one of the most welcome changes to business travel I have ever found. To me, Kinkos represented the very worst in customer experience and service.

The problem was that each store operated a little differently. So, the law of the land in Columbia, MO was different than in St. Louis. At one store, one waited at the counter to be assigned a little devise called an auditron that counted copies. At the next, you might wait by a copier for an attendant. Or, at a third store, one would likely be confronted by an entirely different set of laws of the land.

As though this lack of standardization were not bad enough, the staff at the typical Kinkos store was largely made up of inpatient hipster types. You know, the folks who just want their shift to end so they can continue their latest game of frisbee golf. Yeah, those guys.

They seemed particularly adept at making the newcomer (me) to their store feel like an imbecile. Lots of loud sighs and eye rolls. The attitude of most employees in the Kinkos with which I had the displeasure of doing business made me want to scream.

The crazy part was that for the regular customers at these stores, the experience seemed satisfactory. They would exchange friendly banter with the staff. They would breeze through their routines, making and paying for copies. Even the hipster employees seemed less distracted by thoughts of frisbee golf when dealing with the regulars.

At Kinkos, I was the outsider, and I knew it. Compassion was nowhere to be found. Without exception, I was made to feel like a burden, a speed bump in the day of both the employees and the regular patrons.

Today, when I travel, I attend meetings of Narcotics Anonymous in almost every city I visit. I’ve been to meetings in the inner city of St. Louis, and in the wealthier suburbs as well. Meetings with large numbers of fellow recovering addicts, and meetings with only two or three others in attendance.

There are similarities between all these different meetings. The Serenity Prayer and opening readings are the same. Yet there are a host of differences from one town to the next in terms of how meetings are conducted.

I’ve been to meetings in the basement of a housing project that were as laid back and casual as open air meetings by the beach at Key West. I’ve also been to meetings that were very formal and organized out in New York.

No matter the meeting, or the people in it, on thing is always the same. I am made to feel welcome. If I mess up by not following the format (for instance, some places really frown upon chanting along with the readings), I’m not greeted with rolled eyes or loud sighs. Just smiles and warm encouragement.

NA literature tells us that the newcomer is the most important person at any meeting. Most of the time, when I hear that line read, I think of the person who is new to the program of recovery. While that application is important, I appreciate being treated as a newcomer when I visit out-of-town meetings as well.

I have phone numbers of men in the program from every out-of-town meeting I’ve attended. Some of these folks have become friends with whom I look forward to catching up when I’m in town.

The key is in the compassion I find at every meeting. There is a sense of belonging found in the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It makes me want to keep coming back.

I will never miss those experiences from years ago at Kinkos. I sacrificed too much serenity for the sake of a few copies. That said, I can be thankful for my experiences there. I can draw on those bad memories as an example of how not to treat the newcomer. When an addict enters the rooms of NA, Kinkos reminds me to show them compassion. To greet them warmly. To inspire them to keep coming back.

Have a remarkable day!


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