I can’t help but notice that lately, I have found myself in exactly the right place at the right time.
Last weekend, at Wal-Mart, I was walking in the right place when a young boy broke free from his mother’s clutch in the parking lot. I took two steps and grabbed him by the arm before he made it into the path of traffic. The mother gave me a breathless Thank you and I tipped my beloved Red Sox Scalli Cap at her and went on my way.
Yesterday I was at the Supermarket and I noticed a sweet old lady staring helplessly at an item on the top shelf. I knew she wanted it, I knew she wouldn’t ask for help and I also knew no one was going to even if she did. I approached her, asked if she would like some help and retrieved the item for her. She was so grateful, it’s sad that the world has come to this. Then, one aisle over, a very short mother with two toddlers caused an accidental avalanche of cereal boxes by reaching and I caught several boxes before they hit her on the head.
None of these things were too out of the ordinary, but they were bunched pretty tightly together. As I tend to do, I was reminded of a memory, a time when being in the right place at the right time became a day that I will never forget. One that also, for the first time, convinced me that my Dad may have been right when he told me that everything happens for a reason.
After my Kidney Transplant in 2011, I chose to join the Fraternity of Freemasonry. It was something that I had always thought about as a younger man. It started as far back as my Great Uncle Cyrus’s funeral. He was a wonderful man that just lived too far away so I barely knew him as a child. We exchanged letters and my Grandmother said that he was quite fond of me despite our few meetings.
In 1981 Cyrus passed away. My Mom, Dad, Grandparents and I made the trek to clean out his stately house on the coast of Cape Cod. It took the whole weekend to dig through his belongings and it would conclude with the reading of his last will and testament. I don’t remember everything about it but I do remember when the attorney announced that I was to receive his late wife’s car, a 65 Ford Falcon ( a real gem that I had for years). The other standout from that day was my the dismayed look on my Grandmother’s face as a seemingly endless list of $5000.00 donations to various institutions and charities was read. It was money that she thought she would get as the Executrix of his will. I would later find out that those donations were made in the name of Freemasonry, the oldest and most honorable fraternity in the world. I was intrigued, to say the least.
In 2012 I was consumed with the desire to “pay it forward” after a wonderful person stepped out of the shadows and gave me a life-saving organ transplant. I decided that it was the perfect time to look into Freemasonry, to honor my Great Uncle and better myself. You may have heard that Freemasonry, or Masonry, is highly secretive. To a degree that is true. We have some. But it is no secret that men join to become better men; better husbands, fathers, brothers, friends etc.,. they are known to do this through those things which are larger than oneself. Charity chief among them.
I applied, petitioned for membership and in February, a date that I hoped my father would live to see (he died the previous December), I became a Master Mason. It was the beginning of my journey to being a better person and I had a fire in my belly.
That very February I learned about a Masonic program called the “HELP” program. It is created by, managed and operated exclusively by Masons, all of which are unpaid volunteers. It is an incredible program, we collect donated medical equipment and supplies from families who have either lost a relative or recuperated from a serious illness. It is a program spread by word-of-mouth only and is free to the public for as long as they need it. I knew that I had to check it out so I signed up to volunteer the following Saturday morning.
The local chapter of the Help program was in the parking lot of a local Masonic lodge where they worked out of locked storage containers. We were fortunate to have an unseasonably warm day for February. It wasn’t hard to imagine how unpleasant it must have been on cold, wintry days. Being my first day, I knew nothing about what to do other than signing in. So I took the opportunity to survey the equipment they had to offer. I was actually amazed at the number of motorized beds, mattresses. walkers, commodes, adult diapers and therapeutic equipment available to the public. I was also quite impressed with the amount of fellow Masons, or Brothers as we call each other, toiling away repairing and cleaning equipment and preparing for the rush. As the Newbie, I just sat back and watched.
It wasn’t long before “the rush” began. Cars filled the parking lot and people were milling about looking at the equipment. I was standing awkwardly at the back when a woman walked up to me and abruptly asked me if I “worked here”. I quickly replied that I was a volunteer but I would be glad to help her. To be honest, at first impression I didn’t like her. She was abrupt, seemed impatient and she violated my cardinal rule, she didn’t say hello to me. Fortunately, I quickly reminded myself where I was and why people came here. They had a very ill person to care for. I gave her my full attention.
She truly had no idea what she needed and after aimlessly dragging me around she admitted it. I inquired of her who was sick and the condition. To my amazement, she answered that it was her father, 74, who was in the advanced phase of Parkinson’s disease. I was floored. Just 2 months before I had lost my father, at 74, to Parkinson’s. I became emotional but I adhered to the task at hand. I began to show her all of the equipment that we had available that would make caring for her father easier. I got her a walker, a commode. a lift that helps get a person out of bed and many more items. We spent over an hour picking the items out and talking about our dads.
After we “checked out” all of the equipment I walked to her van to help her load everything into her car. As I was lifting one of the heavier items she asked me why I (we) do this. I explained to her that Masons are a charitable group and we, by definition help people. She asked me if I was here every Saturday. I explained that it was entirely up to me how often I volunteered. She looked me in the eye and asked me,
“What are the odds that you and I would pick this Saturday and that I would end up asking you, perhaps the best person ever to help me out, for help?”
“I think this is a moment that was meant to happen. I sincerely hope that it will be of assistance to your father.”
She smiled, reached in and hugged me (catching me completely by surprise) and walked around her car to get in. As she ducked out of sight into her seat she smiled again. It was a sad smile, almost forced through a face heavy with sadness, but it was one I will never forget.
There were many lessons learned that day but the predominant theme was that it was an incredible case of “right place, right time.”
And it is a tough act to follow.