Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.’s Apologia
For His Life
I Stand By The Door”
Poem, Its Form and Titles and an Historical
Reverend Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr.,
S.T.D., DD, is known to a few (far
too few) members of Alcoholics Anonymous
as a “co-founder” of the Society and
the well-spring of its ideas.
To the religious community, to Episcopalians,
and to many citizens, Sam was known
and applauded as one of the 10 greatest
preachers in America (along with Billy
Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, and
others). From 1925 and for many years
thereafter, Sam was Rector of the
Calvary Protestant Episcopal Church
in New York. Later he was called to
be Rector of the Calvary Episcopal
Church in Pittsburgh. Sam took a special
interest in Alcoholics Anonymous and
become a good friend of co-founder
Bill Wilson. In fact, Sam taught Bill
Wilson most of the spiritual principles
that were incorporated into A.A.’s
basic text (Alcoholics Anonymous)
and in A.A.’s Twelve Steps. Some 200
phrases in A.A. bear the unmistakable
footprints of Sam. And, at one point,
Wilson asked Shoemaker to write the
Twelve Steps, but Sam declined – saying
they should be written by Bill. Nonetheless,
the Steps (as is the Big Book) are
replete with Shoemaker ideas on how
to find God, the “turning point,”
the Oxford Group life-changing steps
(Confidence, Confession, Conviction,
Conversion, Continuance), Quiet Time,
Spiritual Awakening, prayer, fellowship,
conversion and witness, and the need
to “pass it on”—a phrase known to
all AAs. Years after the founding
of A.A. in 1935, Wilson according
Shoemaker the singular honor of addressing
the A.A. International Conventions
in 1955 (St. Louis) and 1960 (Long
Recently, the Executive Director of
the Pittsburgh Experiment (which Sam
founded) opined to me that Shoemaker’s
whole dedication was to opening the
door and showing people how to find
God. Shoemaker several times wrote
articles bearing titles like “How
To Find God.”
It is not surprising that Shoemaker
penned several versions of a poem
which most have titled “So I Stand
By The Door.” Actually, at Christmas,
1958, Sam had this poem and many others
privately printed by Calvary Church
in Pittsburgh. The poem has taken
several forms and been known by at
least two titles. The first title
– apparently the one that Sam himself
chose – was “So I Stay Near The Door—An
Apologia For My Life.” This is the
title used in the pamphlet which I
found in the Episcopal Church Archives
in Austin, Texas. The poem has been
used, modified, reprinted, and retitled
elsewhere under the better known name
of “So I Stand By The Door.”
The Poem: “So I Stay Near
have received so many inquiries about
the poem, its title, its wording,
and where to find it, that this rendition
is made available for your blessing.
Further extensive comments on Sam
Shoemaker can be found it my title
“New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam
Shoemaker, and A.A.” (http://www.dickb.com/newlight.shtml)]
stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay
too far out,
The door is the most important door
in the world—
It is the door through which men walk
when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside,
and staying there,
When so many are still outside, and
they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought
They creep along the wall like blind
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there
must be a door,
Yet they never find it . . .
So I stay near the door.
“The most tremendous thing in the
Is for men to find that door—the door
The most important thing any man can
Is to take hold of one of those blind,
And put it on the latch—the latch
that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving
On cold nights in cruel cities in
the dead of winter—
Die for want of what is within their
They live, on the other side of it—live
because they have found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping
them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find
Him . . .
So I stay near the door.
“Go in, great saints, go all the way
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics—
In a vast, roomy house, this house
where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of
And call outside to the rest of us
how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening
. . .
So I stay near the door.
“The people too far in do not see
how near these are
To leaving—preoccupied with the wonder
of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who
have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for
I stay near the door.
“I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how
Before they got in. Then they would
be able to help
The people who have not even found
Or the people who want to run away
again from God.
You can go in too deeply, and stay
in too long,
And forget the people outside the
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed
Near enough to God to hear Him, and
know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to
And remember they are there too.
Where? Outside the door—
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But—more important for me—
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on
So I shall stay by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
‘I had rather be a door-keeper . .
So I stay near the door.”
by Dick B.
poem contains many reminders of the
A.A. I found – newcomers crying out
for help in finding God. Hesitant,
frightened, even reluctant newcomers—coming
in and out by the thousands each year.
Newcomers who seek a guiding hand—only
to hear that “god” can be a light
bulb, a radiator, a chair, or “Someone.”
Newcomers who can’t find Shoemaker’s
“door” because there is no one leading
or pointing to the right power—Yahweh,
the Creator. Newcomers who—amounting
to 50% of those who come in the A.A.
door—are out of it within the first
year. Back to drinking. Back to drugs.
Back to misery. Back to sure and certain
death by one means or another if they
remain “outside” the real door—the
door to the power of God.
How valuable it will be for people
to see Shoemaker’s poem today. As
we take “God” out of our Pledge of
Allegiance. As we take “God” out of
our courtrooms. And as AAs are adjured
to take “God” out of their belief
system with a supposed freedom to
choose just “anything at all.”
The A.A. I found, almost twenty years
ago, included, among other things,
“Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning,
baffling, powerful! Without help it
is too much for us. But there is One
who has all power—that One is God.
May you find Him now!” (“Alcoholics
Anonymous,” 4th ed., p. 59; and the
first chapter of Shoemaker’s first
title, “Realizing Religion,” 1923).
(2) “. . . either God is everything
or else He is nothing. God either
is, or He isn’t. What was our choice
to be?” (“Alcoholics Anonymous,” 4th
ed., p. 53; and Shoemaker’s title
which preceded A.A., “Confident Faith”).
(3) “Sometimes we had to search fearlessly,
but He was there. He was as much a
fact as we were.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous,”
4th ed., p. 55).
(4) “When we drew near to Him, He
disclosed Himself to us!” (“Alcoholics
Anonymous,” 4th ed ., p. 57).
(5) “We stood at the turning point.
We asked His protection and care with
complete abandon.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous,”
4th ed., p. 59; and many of Shoemaker’s
titles, including his first—“Realizing
early A.A. Pioneers in Akron, Ohio,
were not trying to find God. They
got their information, their belief
system, and their instructions from
the Bible. They studied the Bible.
And they believed that God is (See
Hebrews 11:6). So did I.
Devastated by the ravages of excessive
drink, like the Pioneers, I sought
to rebuild my relationship with God—to
establish daily fellowship with Him
(1 John 1). And to seek His protection
and care at every turn, mindful that
obedience to His will was a vital
part of the effort. Like early AAs,
I was cured of alcoholism and have
not had a drink from the first day
in A.A. rooms until present.
For doubters, unbelievers, and those
like Bill Wilson—who was an atheist
and lacked both a relationship and
fellowship with God—A.A.’s basic text
was written to show newcomers the
steps to take to find God. The very
thing Rev. Sam Shoemaker was teaching
to his friend Bill Wilson in New York.
They told “how it worked!”