My wife and I don’t get date nights as often as we’d like, and they tend not to be much more than dinner, coffee, and bookstore browsing, but sometimes we’re able to plan enough in advance to do something special. So when I found out a few months ago that Ladysmith Black Mambazo was going to have a concert at the Doudna Fine Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University, where I work, I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale. We’ve loved their music since Paul Simon’s album Graceland, and this was too good an opportunity to pass up. So after a nice dinner without the kids in tow, we headed to the theater, greeted old friends, and stood in line. I was looking around, and noticed a guy wearing a ball cap with the square and compasses. I didn’t know him, which was odd, since I know most of the Masons around here at least by sight. As it turned out, his seats were right behind ours, and we had a chance to talk. He and his son had just moved to central Illinois from Oklahoma, where he’d been an active Mason, and he felt a bit lost. I was able to give him contact information for his District Deputy Grand Master, tell him a bit about local lodges and Masonic events, and generally extend greetings to a Brother who missed his normal Masonic fellowship.
So, I’m taking a lesson from that evening. I’m going to pay more attention to being a Mason in more tangible ways. It’s certainly true that if I want my lodge to thrive, I need to be visibly a Mason in character, word, and deed. I need to encourage my Brethren to do things for the community, to exemplify the Work, to study our history, and to embrace the lessons of the Fraternity, but I need to do more than that. I need to wear my Masonry out loud.
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.