Tonight, on a beautiful autumn evening in Cleveland, I will be indoors, huddled ‘round a table with a dozen or so men that “on paper” I never should have met.  

The journey began on this day in ’97. Over this time I would hear words and come to embrace examples of men and women from all walks. With gut-level honesty they would teach me that life is an inside job and that I must look in the mirror. Daily.  Mrs. Pelander and Mr. Kilfoyle would have to step aside.  These would be the best teachers of my life.

How I resented, in those early years, the repetitive slogans! “Victims don’t stay sober”, they’d harp (when I’d be feeling sorry for myself) or better yet: “Poor me, poor me, Pour me”. But their sachel surfaced as my ears opened, and the light bulb went off when I just stopped debating.

“Sit down Bogart. None of us gets here on a winning streak”. “Look for a reason to stay, not a reason to leave.“ “Relate, don’t compare.”

I can’t explain how grateful I am for it all. For meeting people who taught me and touched my life for the better, and for The Rooms, the classrooms (if you will), where five to seven times per week for some dozen and a half years I’ve been taking notes. No, I can’t explain (necessarily), but I can share. These then are my personal favorites: axioms I could only grasp listening one day at a time:

“If you’re early you can’t be late.”
“You want self-esteem? Do esteemable acts”.
“Education without graduation.”
“The givers receive”.
“Believing is seeing”.
“If someone says something and you are able to hear it then God must have wanted you to.”
“There is a God, and you’re not it.”
“Trust God. Clean house. Help others.”

I’ve said it before:  Al Bogart taught me everything I needed to know about life except how to live without him. My real growing up would indeed come after he passed.

And all these years later, I too am in a better place.

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