I had been spending all morning thinking about myself, my life, what the next chapter might hold for me, and was getting a little squirrely behind the self obsession, so when the Skateboard Pup appeared around the corner of the building across the street -- threading his board through typical urban obstacles with a balanced slouch and a lazy swing of his hips -- I practically ran out of the restaurant to meet him. Such is the healing power of service work -- once you experience the relief of getting out of yourself with only the objective of being helpful to someone else as your goal, you become keenly aware of when you need that particular medicine. He nodded through the window and with a snap of his foot flipped his board up and caught it practically without looking.
SKATEBOARD PUP: Hey.
Mr. SponsorPants: Hey.
SKATEPUP: You got a couple minutes?
Mr. SP: Sure. Let's go next door I need a coffee. You want one?
He shrugged. .
SKATEPUP: Yeah, I guess.
I nodded to my Shift Lead and indicated with a simple pantomime we'd developed that I was going to get a cup of coffee and did she want one. She declined with a nod. I waggled my thumbs which, in the pre-cell-phone era might have looked like I was trying -- and failing -- to thumb wrestle myself, but among my crew meant "text me if you need me and I'll come right back." (Yes children, there was a time, long ago now, when people weren't always almost instantly available -- when they left the room they might actually be out of touch! Some few of us still remember it, though I know the young think this only a myth.) She nodded and made a shooing gesture.
SKATEPUP: What was the banging your elbow thing?
Mr. SP: What? Oh, this?
I made the "do you want coffee" sign again, which is basically patting the inside of your elbow as if looking for a vein to draw blood from. Or inject. It evolved among us as we've mutually joked that there are some days we would take our caffeine in an intravenous drip if possible. I explained the genesis of our semifore.
SKATEPUP: Isn't that... I don't know, I didn't think you'd joke about injections or addiction or anything.
Mr. SP: What? Why not? Because I'm sober? I laughed. Oh, kiddo, if I spend every 24 hours spitting in the eye of my addiction and saying, "No, not today you bastard" you can bet I'm going to laugh about it as well.
He considered for a bit.
SKATEPUP: You're very...
He seemed to be testing several words before choosing one.
Mr. SP: ...very...?
I had thought the penny dropped before now, but perhaps not. Mentally I shrugged to myself; we were still virtual strangers. This drive-by sponsorship was working for him, and was certainly helping me get out of myself, but its intermittent nature had still left big gaps in our knowledge of one another. As my primary purpose is to help him with his sobriety, and so far this wasn't broken and thus didn't need fixing, I let it unfold as God would have it. Generally I've found that God needs little assistance from me on the timing of things, much as I like to try and help. My job is to listen for my cue and say my lines, not to try and direct the play.
Mr. SP: You want a coffee or not?
SKATEPUP: Nah, actually, I'm good.
I engaged in my usual banter with the barrista, again offering my heartfelt thanks that they had recently opened next door to my work -- there is a big difference in your work day between "popping next door" for a coffee and "popping two blocks away." I've found there's little "pop" once you pass the block-and-a-half mark.
SKATEPUP: You do that with everybody, don't you? I've watched you do it at your work, too.
Now I was mystified.
Mr. SP: Do what? Talk?
SKATEPUP: No. Joke. Engage. Banter.
Again I revised my estimation of the Skatepup and filed it away for further consideration. "Engage" and "Banter" are not street words, per se -- not that I'm an expert in urban nomenclature exactly.
Mr. SP: What is this, a game of Mr. SponsorPants Scattergories or something? 'Describe Mr. SP in series of one word adjectives.' I don't really think about it, I just goof with people. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I can give them a laugh. It's not really a conscious thing. Why, does it bother you or something?
SKATEPUP: No, no. It's just... at the meeting I was at last night someone was talking about 'being comfortable in their own skin' and it looks like... I mean, just now I thought... I guess to me that's... that's what that looks like. What you look like doing that.
I stopped dead and looked over at the Skatepup with a face which must have seemed... well, you'd have to ask him, I guess.
Mr. SP: Skatepup, that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me in my whole sobriety. Thank you.
He looked flustered for a second, and then stood up straight and looked me in the eye.
SKATEPUP: You're welcome.
I thought back on all the sponsors I've had. My Dead Sponsor (he who's wise counsel I miss every single day). My First Sponsor, then the Sarcastic Sponsor after him... how much I learned from them, not just going through the Big Book, or talking, but just being with them. It was a powerful thing for me, and it is a profound privelege for me to, in any way at all -- be it clumsily or unconsciously or with the best of intentions but only occasional good aim -- do the same for someone else. In this case this strange, still somewhat enigmatic, scruffy almost-urchin. Also, I heard my cue.
Mr. SP: We have to figure out a way to hang out more. Just meet for coffee, no big. Have more time for talking, okay?
He considered it for a full minute, but I suspect he was playacting a little.
SKATEPUP: Yeah. I guess. Okay.