Do You Have a Second?


Lately, I’ve been pondering the power of five words that end in a question mark.

Do you have a second?

These five words, a total of six syllables, can turn your day around if posed to the right person or asked in an appropriate circumstance.  Conversely, if the five words aren’t voiced, when using them might have been helpful, real calamity can ensue, perhaps even tragedy.

Let me tell you why I’ve been thinking about these five words.

Turning a negative into a positive

A week or so ago, I sat in a noon 12-step meeting feeling a little distracted because of a situation I needed to face.  Actually, let’s be truthful.  The situation–three days from then–would be a test of patience and endurance.

The meeting topic was given and folks around the room started sharing their thoughts and their experiences.   I can’t remember any of the details except this:  one of my buddies spoke about the magic of our fellowship when one person is troubled about something in his or her life and says to another person, “Hey, you got a second?”

Mike went on to describe the magical miracle of one person in recovery needing to get something off his chest and having a fellow sober person take the time to sit (or stand) and listen.  They say that heavy thoughts lose their power simply by being spoken aloud.

In a lot of cases, the person may just want to let the other one know that their comments shared during the meeting were appreciated.  Or maybe there are some specific questions about the group or the 12 steps.  Perhaps there is some clarity needed about a particular point in the book we study.

And sometimes, the person asking for a second is troubled or fearful or angry.  Maybe, like me, there is a situation approaching that has him or her twisted up in gut-knots.

Those precious moments in time shared one-on-one are God moments, moments when the person asked gets to offer love and hope to the person asking.

Even when the five words are asked over the phone–as I later did with my sponsor–negative perceptions can flip around to positive opportunities.  At least that was my experience.

Sometimes showing up is the request for help

Yesterday, sitting in another noon meeting (Can you tell I’m there a lot?), the door opened a few minutes after we had started and the topic was shared.

I’d never seen the woman before but I intuitively knew that she was new to the group and new to sobriety.  Hollow-eyed, thin, a little shaky and a whole-lot scared, she took a desire chip and declared herself in need of help.

I was happy to see two women talking with her immediately after the meeting.  They didn’t wait for her to say the five words.  The naked gratitude in her eyes, relieved by the possibility of finding a place to rest with her disease, moved me greatly as I touched her arm and welcomed her.

As I walked to my car, I thanked God for one more miracle and for all of us who have learned to say, “Do you have a second?”

Photo courtesy Michelle Bulgaria

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