You Never Know

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

I’ve driven a Honda Odyssey for ten years. We bought it new in 2003, and it’s been a great van, but maintenance costs were beginning to add up as fast as the miles, and the prospect of our June vacation to northern Wisconsin made me think I should start looking for a new car. Anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes knows I don’t like change much, so when I found a 2004 Odyssey that looked good online, I decided to stop by the dealer on my way to lunch at Illini High Twelve. It was in better shape than my 2003, with 85,000 fewer miles, a trailer hitch, and a DVD system, and for a price so low my jaw dropped, so after thinking it over at lunch (and getting permission from my wife) I went back to the dealer and bought it. It’s a better color, a lot cleaner, and my Masonic license plates look just fine on it.

Now, one of the reasons it was cheap was that the dealer just took it in trade and put it out on the lot without a thorough inspection, so, a couple of days later, I took it to a Jiffy Lube to get an oil change and once over. I wasn’t thinking much about it, since it was just one more thing to check off on my to-do list for the day, but when the manager was leading me back to the waiting area, he said, “Are you a Mason?” “Yes,” I said, “are you?” “No, but I’ve always wanted to be, and I never knew who to ask about it.” And a routine task became not routine at all. By the time my van was finished, I’d emailed his contact information to the Master of the local lodge. Maybe I’ll be able to attend his First Degree in a couple of months. Or maybe not. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

And that’s the point. You just never know. None of this was planned. I didn’t plan to buy a van that day. When I went to look at the Odyssey on my way to lunch, I didn’t think I was going to drive it home that night. When I was negotiating the price, I wasn’t thinking that I’d get an oil change in a couple of days. When I pulled up to the Jiffy Lube, I didn’t expect to get into a conversation about Masonry. I certainly didn’t expect to meet a man who is eager to become a Mason. But I have Masonic license plates and I wear a Masonic ring so that people who are curious about Masonry know who to ask, and when someone asks me about the Craft, I’ll stop what I’m doing, and have a conversation. It could lead to a man discovering that he’s a Mason in his heart.

As for my old van, it’s going to my friend and Brother, Joe Hardwick. It turns out he has a brother-in-law who’s a Honda mechanic, and so my rough old Odyssey doesn’t scare him. I’m glad, too, because Joe is one of my best friends, which neither of us saw coming twelve years ago when I called him to ask him to please do some work that was way beyond my competence. I certainly didn’t think I’d sign his petition for degrees; I wasn’t even a Mason yet myself. But being open to serendipity has led us both down some interesting paths we didn’t know were there until we’d been on them for a while. And so, I’ll keep saying yes to whatever comes my way, and I’ll strike up a conversation with whoever asks me a question. I just never know when I’ll meet a friend who will become a Brother.


R. W. B. Michael H. Shirley is Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M, as well as a Certified Lodge Instructor and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. A Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332, a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua Wisconsin and he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

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