Dang, Dallas -- you been in my head again!
My sponsor taught me that what I bring to a meeting is just as important, sometimes more so, that what I get out of the meeting. As a result, when people say "I'm just not getting what I need from that meeting", I usually ask , "What are you bringing to the meeting" or "why don't you come to the meeting and help make it be what you would like it to be?"
I think the most important thing for me is to remember to place principles before personalities. Though I may not like a certain person, I still need to listen to what they have to say in order to learn tolerance and patience, and I might just discover that they know something I don't (every day I find more things I don't know).
Along those same lines, if a meeting is turning into a "bitch session", I will try during my share to bring it back to the topic or to make it relevant to the Steps and AA. At my meeting today, we had a newcomer attending his first ever AA meeting. The person chairing the meeting suggested a topic of Attitude Adjustment, and many people wandered way off into 4th step territory, which was way over the newcomer's head. I could see that he was getting a bit overwhelmed, so when it was my turn to share, I talked about (my favorite) gratitude lists and how my gratitude list helps me adjust my attitude.
Paul, I agree wholeheartedly with your first point -- service without expectation of praise. My sponsor pushed me into service as soon as I hit 90 days of sobriety (the group's minimum for chairing meetings, working the coffee bar, etc). I was reluctant, because I didn't know what to do, but I learned, and I've been doing it ever since. The "atta girls" are nice, but I don't expect them or need them -- I do it because it keeps me sober.
In Miami, I was the "chauffeur" for several elderly members -- they lived near me, and I was happy to give them rides to the meeting. Another member came up to me one night and said "thank you for your service work in bringing them to the meeting" -- I was shocked -- I didn't think of it as service work -- I did it because I wanted to.
As long as I continue to place principles before personalities, I can remain objective and contribute to the group welfare.