by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Aaron Gardner
Growing up an only child with a single mother can be rough on a boy. He has no one to look up to and no one to teach how to be a man. It is sad to say—but this is the typical American family; more specifically in my hometown of Flint, Michigan. I was raised that very way up until I was about six years old when my step father came around and married my mom. I grew up calling him dad and looking up to him as a man. What he did, what he didn’t do would determine my path in life.
As I grew up and became a teenager I started setting my own trends as most boys that age. I started working, going to school and over all finding myself in society. As most teenage boys I had no idea where I stood on different sides of any fence. Rather it is a moral decision, political or social. All I knew is what I saw in life thus far as how to be the man that I would eventually become. In my own personal household I witnessed some things that I personally disagree with today. However, it was normal to my unknowing eyes. Now, before I go any further let me clarify—my step dad isn’t abusive; he never laid his hands on my mother, to my knowledge, he just was raised a little differently and had his own views and opinions on the world. Still does and I still disagree with him on most his views and his actions in life.
However, I have also witnessed my grandparent’s relationship in their house. It was two different realms in reality. My grandfather would go to work every day and sometimes work all the way into the night to provide for him and my grandmother. After he came home from work he would slave in the kitchen and cook food for her and us grandkids staying the night. On weekends he would wake up early to have his cup of coffee and then carry on about the day doing yard or house work and even tinkering around in the garage. My grandfather was a hardworking man, always has been and even after his heart attack and stroke he still will be as hard working as he was before, just a little slower. My grandfather is not a Mason, he believes in a God, but just had a hard time figuring out who is right with all the religious mumbo jumbo. He was moreover, a Soldier. I believe that the majority of his hard working ethics came from being a Soldier as well as the era he was raised in. He will be the first to admit he is not perfect and his flaws have made him who he is today.
Watching these two different realms in this world has amazed me. It leaves a boy wondering what he is supposed to do as a man. Is what my grandfather did even in his alcoholic days the definition of a man? Or is what my stepfather does the actions of a man? How can one tell? Who is to tell a boy who is growing up with two contradictions of lifestyles which is the proper way? There are a number of places one can get the answers he is looking for: church, friends, family and even gangs. I fortunately never stepped into the path of gangs but I am sure I know a few friends who have. With all the support channels offered to a young boy I mostly learned toward my family and some people that I attended church with.
I have since moved on from attending any form of church and actually look at religion quite a bit differently today. Either way, these were my outlets along with my extracurricular activities such as choir in my high school. While in high school, I was still trying to find myself and find out exactly what I believed. This caused me to follow into my grandfather’s footsteps and join the United States Army. While in the Army I have found different people that I would consider parent like figures to show me how to be a man. It wasn’t until a tour overseas in Italy that I really started pursuing a different course. I was content in being a Soldier and the belief of belonging to something bigger than oneself was right there. However, beliefs and ideas change. I started actively pursuing information regarding Freemasonry as another outlet of belonging.
After my raising I have found what was said to me by the Tyler to be very much true. “You get what you put into Freemasonry”. I have put a lot of effort into the craft and I study every chance I get. I have met great brethren who help guide me to becoming a better man. It is thanks to Freemasonry that I have picked up the craft of writing and reintroduced myself to learning. Now, all I can do is learn and I strive to learn from everything I see, do and even in the things I don’t see or do. If I could, I would go back in time and set my path a little differently to encompass Freemasonry in my life at an earlier stage. Maybe even as far back as a young boy growing up and getting involved in the DeMolay program. Unfortunately, I was not privy to the information of such a program existing. I was not surrounded by Freemason’s growing up and the most information I knew about the craft came from my own studies of history.
I believe we have a great program for young boys who need that source of outlet. A way to help young men grow and become level, square and just in today’s society. We can help reduce crime and tragedies of society within our own organization. That is, if we market it. Young gang members may just be looking for a sense of belonging, which they haven’t found in their families or churches. Maybe it is time to introduce the DeMolay program to people outside of Freemasonry. Put the program in schools as an extracurricular activity and allow kids to see a portion of the light that we see as upstanding men of the fraternity. Help guide what could be lost souls into a world of knowledge and understanding. I may have had to find myself by myself, but that doesn’t mean other generations have to.
Market DeMolay, and we are no longer just making “Good Men Better”. We are raising a better society from birth.
Bro. Aaron Gardner is an American Soldier who has been raised to the sublime degree in Flushing Lodge, Flushing Michigan in the summer of 2012. He has since traveled and became a member at Triangle Lodge #548 in Lawton, Oklahoma. Bro. Gardner writes fiction stories, poems, and his own ideas regarding Freemasonry, life and the military on the blog “Celestial Brotherhood”.