We are not a secret society. We are not affiliated with the Illuminati. We are not the Knights Templar. We can barely handle a take out order. But we are a fraternity that values faith, hope, and above all Charity. We vow to support one another in our lives and endeavors in an unparalleled commitment to each other. We are Freemasons, the oldest Fraternal Organization in the world.
My great uncle Cyrus was an esteemed Freemason. I rarely saw him when I was younger because he lived a good distance away. But I knew of his extreme generosity. I learned the full extent of this when I attended the reading of his Last Will and Testament. As the attorney read a laundry list of 5000 dollar donations to a series of hospitals, burn units, food pantries and schools I learned that those were his Masonic charities. It intrigued me how a man of meager means could be so generous. So I looked into Freemasonry. I concluded that someday I would pursue it.
It wasn’t until I was in my late forties that I acted on my desire to join.
My kids were older, my marriage wasn’t worth staying home for and perhaps most important, I had just received a life-saving kidney transplant from a co-worker and I wanted to pay it forward. I joined a lodge in my hometown in MA. I chose it because it was close to my current town and I knew many of the members.
It was a small but bustling group of guys and I immediately fit in. The only thing I had to do was reconcile my faith. Freemasonry demands that a man believes in a higher power. No denomination or names required, just no atheists. I came to the conclusion that no man can be arrogant enough to be absolutely sure that there is nothing up/out there and that was enough. Soon after I kneeled at the consecrated altar and took an obligation to simply be a better man.
I jumped in and was thrilled to endeavor in wholesome, charitable and community-oriented activities with some very good men. I got involved with the few skills I had. I cooked at all functions, I organized events and I called guys that hadn’t been in a while and personally asked them to come back. I joined the line of Officers and tried to be a leader as well. I became a popular, well-respected member. I made wonderful friendships that I never would have made had I not sought out this fraternity. It has changed my life in so many ways. It was where I belonged.
Unfortunately, I was a bit of a Pollyanna in one respect. I thought that ALL Freemasons were man of impeccable character. I soon learned how wrong I was. Most, a good 85% are indeed great men. But some are Masons for the wrong reasons, seeking social stature or just enjoy titles. My biggest disappointment was that politics exist within our walls as well because we are, after all, just mortal men.
Mortal men are capable of gossip, they lose interest, make promises they fail to keep, struggle with personality differences, grapple with resentment and grudges, and can be petty and unrelenting. It goes against everything we strive for but it happens, even in a room that is dedicated to be different than the world outside its walls. This has happened in my own lodge.
But in recent years, membership has fallen way off, attendance is down and we are in trouble.
I missed almost all of last year due to my move (I’m 100 miles away from the lodge now). I went a few times but I had to drop out of the officer line due to my health and distance and created a gap for them to fill. They couldn’t. The failure of others to step up and fill mine, and other vacancies in addition to failure to collect dues put our Lodge in Receivership. In essence, Grand Lodge has us on probation and we either get it together or we sell our building, lose our charter and merge with another lodge.
The brothers charged with handling our rebuilding/probation asked me if I would re-join the officer line. They felt that my presence would help to galvanize the membership. But it would not come without sacrifice. It would require me to drive to MA once a month for 10 months of the year. 200 miles round trip and I would have to find a place to sleep. Reluctantly, I agreed.
I decided that if my lodge needs me I will do my part. I will find a way to make a weekend out of it. My dialysis schedule actually permits it. I have it on Saturday and then have 2 days off. I can go down Sunday and see two of my kids on the way down. I can then stay at my buddy Jeff’s house Sunday night and see my other two kids on Monday. The meeting is Monday night and I can drive up after. It’s a commitment on my part but I’m willing to ake it because Freemasonry, and my lodge, means that much to me. Also, it does give me something to look forward to and plan for. That is something we Chronically Ill need to keep going.
Last night I was installed Senior Warden of my lodge. My next step is Master. At which time I will assume leadership of my beloved lodge. My first priority will be that my members always remember that they made a commitment to God, their brothers and themselves that they would strive to be better men. While this implicitly implies that they should work towards being better than their former selves, I also hope to inspire them to step up, to be accountable, to get involved and to not wait for others to do it.
That’s what the people outside our walls do, and we as Freemasons need to do better. I’m doing my part, some think I’m doing more than my part. Again, it means that much to me.