Mary slid into the seat behind me. In the dark church parking lot, she’d approached from my blind spot. I tapped my phone to start the ride, and as we talked I asked her about her evening.  “This is a big building. I was wondering if I had the right address. . . and the right door.”

“Yes, some of the other drivers have a hard time finding me. I’m here every Tuedsay. The church has converted some of the old offices into a community center.”

In the fall Tuesday evening, Grand Rapids was peaceful. “You come here every week?”

“Yes. My AA meeting is here.”

In the four or five miles between St. Ignatious’ parkinglot and Mary’s house, we chatted about life. Mary talked to the back of my head, and I responsed while navigating the hills and stop signs on GR’s Westside. Mary had been sober for six years, and her weekly meetings became a community she’d learned to depend upon. She was an atheist, and while the “god message” of AA’s first step bothered her, it was broad enough that she got around it.

“Have you ever read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg?” I asked.


“I read it a couple years ago. The author studied huge amounts of data, companies and behavioral surveys, and writes about 4 or 5 steps he calls the power habits have in our life . . . how habits are formed and how to break them.” I paused to see if I was in the conversation, or talking to the darkness. “It’s not written from a Christian or religious perspective Toward the end of the book, Duhigg talks about the success AA creates in people to break habits. He’s a bit stumped because AA doesn’t follow his formula. He finally figures out that it must be the power of community, and the relationships in the AA members that help people thrive and succeed.”

The backseat was quiet for a minute or two. “What was the name of that book?”

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Amazon has it, or Audible if you like audio books.”

“I’ll have to pick that one up.” I saw the glow of Mary’s iPhone on the car ceiling as I pulled into her apartment building. “Thanks for the ride, and the book.”

“I’m glad to get you home.”

I never saw Mary’s face. She slipped back into my blind spot as she walked to her building, and was gone.

I’m praying for her. AA is a terrific organization; habits are powerful, and God’s love, sometimes though relationships in an old church building, sets us free. West Michigan is a religious place that can leave a bad taste in peoples’ mouths. I’m praying Mary finds a relationship with the One who is a source of her freedom.