Foolishly, I decided that I’d been overly cautious, and didn’t bother changing. So of course, I lost the ring I’d been wearing for years. I don’t know what happened; it apparently just slipped off my hand somewhere. Fortunately, it had no sentimental value, so I wasn’t heartbroken so much as I was annoyed.
I also discovered that I just didn’t feel right without a Masonic ring. So when we got back home I went straight to the computer and started hunting on eBay. I knew what I wanted: gold, with a solid back. I figured there’d be a few out there, and there were. After a few days of only mildly obsessive searching, I found an excellent ring at a good price, paid for it, and received it in a very short time. It fit better than the one it replaced, and is in even better condition. I was happy, of course, but what I found surprising was my relief when I put it on. I knew I’d missed my ring, but what I hadn’t figured on, and didn’t really realize until the new one came, was how much a part of me it had become. It wasn’t the particular ring I’d missed: it was the constant external reminder that I am a Mason.
Being anonymous can lead to the temptation to try to cut corners, to get away with things; it can lead, in other words, to acting un-Masonically. When I wear my Masonic ring (or drive my car with its Masonic license plates, or wear a lodge polo shirt), I am putting myself out there as a representation of our fraternity. As Most Worshipful Richard L. Swaney, Past Grand Master of Masons in Illinois, put it, “a Masonic license plate makes you a more polite driver.”
So my Masonic ring matters. Yes, it’s a nice piece of jewelry, but it’s more than that: it’s a sign to others that I’m trustworthy, a good man. So I’ll keep wearing it as a pledge to myself that I’ll remember what my obligation means and act accordingly.
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley is the Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M. He is the Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.