A day after doing a fifth step (ie. the sharing of my 4th step moral inventory) with my current sponsor, I was called to substitute teach at a high school in a large urban ghetto. While waiting for my first class to arrive, I stood looking out the second floor window at the entrance sidewalk below. I watched as several African American teenage girls came through the gate. Suddenly, in a flash, my entire world turned grayish-white, as I witnessed the souls of these children. I could clearly see in their gestures and mannerisms the immensely deep shame created by generations of prejudice and poverty; the hurt etched so deeply into their very hearts and souls. Water shot straight out from my eyes, as I broke down in the empty classroom. The only word that came up was 'empathy.' This empathy was a completely new emotion for me and probably the direct spiritual result of having done an honest 5th step. All my crazy life, I was so preoccupied with the dire mental and emotional after-effects of growing up in a pathologically dysfunctional environment, that I had never known empathy. In fact, I was psychologically blocked from it. I had many times sympathized, or felt sorry for others, but this always seemed to involve some sort of mostly unconscious belief in my superiority over 'those poor less fortunate people.' I had to admit that my sympathy--- of which I was consciously convinced was genuine caring--- probably served me more than anyone else. It enabled my insecure ego to get the attention I desperately craved, by posing as a caring person to society. But, both before and after this experience, I had almost no ability or interest in truly seeing anything from anyone else's point of view. To the contrary, I had always been concerned about myself and what I could get out of any particular situation, although I carefully concealed my intentions and motivations from even myself. Indeed, it could not have been differently, given my dire life situation up to that point and the resulting fear-based consciousness that I learned to live in. When growing up, I remember interacting with my friends' parents much like Eddie Haskell did in the 1950's TV sitcom "Leave it to Beaver." I was compulsively selfish and self-centered without even remotely suspecting it. Many times in recovery, I read right over the statement in the Alcoholics Anonymous 'Big Book' : "… the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so." (Alcoholics Anonymous p.62).