The Spiritual Latte Factor

‘Please put a penny in the old man’s hat…’

So goes a line in an old Christmas Carol that shot into my memory during
a recent AA business meeting. We were discussing the topic of the 7th
Tradition; how much money is contributed when the hat is passed around
the room towards the end of each meeting, the principle of the
overflowing hat* and how wisely this money is spent by the trusted
servants throughout the fellowship.

The final point first: since the earliest days of our wonderful
fellowship, recovering drunks have debated and sometimes even fought
about how best to spend the moneys collected. Bill was stone broke
throughout the late 30st and 40s, which must have been difficult for him
and Lois personally. Yet, the principle of applying 100% of the
collected moneys to the execution of our primary purpose was firmly
established during this period. Whether for literature, public
information initiatives, Group, Intergroup, Region and Conference
expenses or the like, we have been trained to spend the 7th Tradition
funds wisely and to scrutinise how well we are doing. We also
established clearly that no member of the fellowship should be denied
the opportunity of doing service due to any difficult personal financial

The principle of the ‘Overflowing Hat’ is set out clearly in a short
brochure provided free of charge by GSO in York. According to this
principle, moneys contributed at Group level should be used wisely for
the day-to-day expenses of that Group. Part of the wisdom is to set
aside a sufficient “prudent reserve” which can be drawn upon should
unforeseen circumstanced dictate. There are stories, for example, of
miscalculations and/or insufficient financial controlling (we are not
saints!), treasurers deciding to do further research into whether they
are real alcoholics (thereby taking some funds entrusted to their care
to finance the research!) and sometimes extreme volatility, from time to
time, in the volume of contributions.

Any surplus over and above current expenses and the prudent reserve,
should be passed downward to the next level, i.e. the Intergroup. Here
the same principle applies, with and surplus going down to Region. When
Region has carried out its duties to the fellowship and ‘the still
suffering alcoholic’ any money left over is passed down to the General
Services Office. Each level of the fellowship it thereby encouraged to
do all it can to fulfill our Primary Purpose within its own sphere of
influence and pass on any surplus to the next level, whereby all are
obliged, in line with our Traditions and the ethos of accountability, to
publish (at the least) annual financial reports accessible to those they

Which brings me to the final point; how much each of us contributes. I
must confess that I felt directly addressed by the person in the recent
business meeting when she said, “even today in 2019 many people still
put in €1, just as we did a decade ago. We don’t see our
contribution in terms of what needs to be done to fulfill our Primary
Purpose OR in relation to the amount we were prepared to spend on
drink in the past or on that latte today.”

Boom! She was right. While I was broke (several periods lasting multiple
quarters) it was quite reasonable for me to limit my contribution to
€1 or 50 cents. Now that the Promises have been fulfilled, this is no
longer the case. I cannot, on reflection, justify spending €3.50 on my
latte while putting only €1 in the hat. I am grateful for this
wake-up call, which I gladly share with you by means of this article.

Patrick L.