The Lost Ring


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley
      
      My wife once took a survey that asked what her husband’s hobby is or would be. She answered, “collecting Masonic bling.” She’s probably right. I have a box full of pins, tie tacks, cuff links, and name badges that is beginning to get too small. But I’m not given to wearing them all at the same time. I generally stick to a ring, the current Grand Master’s pin, and cuff links when I’m wearing a suit, and a ring at all times. It seems to be the one common thing Masons have when it comes to jewelry: I don’t often meet a Mason who isn’t wearing a Masonic ring. I haven’t been without one since I was raised. I even have a beat up ring I call my “fishing ring,” which I have taken on vacation for the past several summers, except this year.

       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. 

~MHS

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.

1 comment:

  1. I heard almost this exact story in Rabbinical school.

    Except "Freemason" was "Orthodox Jew", and "ring" was "kipah" (skullcap).

    External identity, being a representative of a larger idea, the weight of the group's reputation on your shoulders - these are powerful concepts, and good reasons to externally identify.

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