’Round Town

An Anonymous Gift

Wed, 05/15/2024 - 7:15am

A long time ago (I seem to be saying that a lot lately) I met Edith Hazard at Bookland in Brunswick during a book signing. Edie, as I have come to know her, was meeting and greeting with her newest book, “Singing for your Supper,” and I was signing my first book “WINTER.” We weren’t overrun with interested customers – well, at least I wasn’t, so we had some time to visit. Bookland was approaching hard times as bookstores everywhere were beginning to feel the pressure of online shopping. However, the wonderful managers of our “local” stores were committed to promoting Maine authors and artists. Karla and JoAnn were huge supporters who, despite waning markets, really emphasized, in their respective locations, Maine products. I guess that’s what Edie and I were, however, I hardly put myself in the same class with Ms. Hazard. I did photographs, she does words, and has continued to pursue and develop her craft over the many years since our chance meeting.

In a rather flip comment during a lull in the action at Bookland, I mentioned to Edie that, should she ever produce another book, I’d be honored to make her author portrait. Thirty years later, during another chance encounter at a service for good friend Doug Bragg at St. Paul’s church in Brunswick, I recognized Edie, who served as a deacon there, and a good friend of the Bragg family. With no books to sign we had a moment to chat and Edie mentioned that she was completing another book project. She mentioned taking me up on my offer of decades ago. I was thrilled of course, both for the opportunity to photograph with her, and for the successful completion of a new book. She said she would be in touch.

An Anonymous Gift” is the title of Edith Hazard Birney’s new book. The book’s website is ananonymousgift.com, and the book is on Amazon along with her other books, “Rising to the Occasion” (1993) and “Singing for Your Supper (1995). It is also available through local bookstores.

This is not a book review. Far be it for me to offer literary intellectual analysis of anything. But, sharing the story of Edie’s last 30 years of research, study and family secrets is a matter of necessity. I believe this book to be essential reading for any and all who have family or friends who have struggled with addiction – and who among us has not?

It is a fantastic story that discloses the “birth” of Alcoholics Anonymous within the history of America (1881-1946) from an elite vantage point, and the anonymous gift Rowland Hazard gave (and keeps on giving) to the world. A gift, the author writes, “once figured out, should not be kept a secret any longer.”

To say that I am honored to have even a small part in the notice of this remarkable achievement is an understatement. As I read more of Edie’s book (slow reader that I am) the more I come to appreciate the depth and complexity of Rowland Hazard’s world and how his struggles impacted his family and friends. It is not a totally unfamiliar world. Rowland Hazard, in many ways, is alive and regularly sharing. Edith Hazard Birney has uncovered for us a not so anonymous gift for which we can be eternally grateful. It deserves your attention.