My closest friend growing up was Tom. Tom and I became friends pretty early in our lives, and our friendship continues to this day. He is not a Freemason yet because he isn’t ready to start that journey, but I know that the day he decides to join he will give it his all, and will far surpass anything I can hope to achieve.
This story isn’t about me, or Tom, but about Tom’s father Bruce.
Bruce terrified me when I was young. He was a very large, very strong man, whose wit was razor sharp. Being a stupid little hellraiser, I crossed paths with Bruce more than once, and disappointing him was the only thing worse than disappointing my own father.
As I’ve aged, Bruce went from being someone who terrified me, to someone I respected and admired, and finally to someone I was proud to say was my friend as well. He patiently guided me through some of the stupidest moments of my life, and never once gave up on me.
Bruce was not a Freemason either, but he should have been.
Last month, Bruce passed away, and I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking back at the lessons he taught me, and how they can be applied in my life, and in our fraternity.
Bruce was the king of one-liners, and one of my favorites was “Watch one, do one, teach one”. For the longest time, I thought he just meant that you would learn more by teaching than by watching, which is true, but he had a much deeper meaning that I’m only now discovering.
First, you watch how something is done to learn how to do it properly. We live in the internet age where you can watch anything (and I do mean ANYthing) instantaneously, but it is not the same as watching a master at work.
In lodge, we watch not only our own degrees, but if we’re wise we continue to watch degrees for other men as well, and learn both the words, and the meanings behind them. I spent many months watching degrees after I was raised, and didn’t realize how much I had learned until I started to do them myself.
Second, you do the task yourself. You won’t be perfect at first, but through repetition you will be able to apply the principles you learned from watching and become adept yourself.
I can’t speak for your experience, but once I started doing ritual work myself, I was hooked! Even though I started in small parts, helping bring men into Masonry built my confidence as a speaker to where I feel comfortable talking to total strangers (sometimes too much), and I look forward to the next opportunity to sit in lodge again.
Finally, you need to teach one. This is where I misunderstood Bruce for so many years, and I’m just now understanding the meaning behind what he was really saying.
If you teach someone else how to do something, you will become better at it yourself, because it forces you to work harder at it, so that you teach it correctly. This is true, but not what Bruce meant.
You should teach what you’ve learned as a way of giving thanks to the one who invested their time in you! After all, if you hadn’t had that teacher, you wouldn’t know what you know. In this way, the knowledge of countless generations is handed down, and preserved for future students.
Watch one, do one, teach one is more than a pretty catch phrase; if you actually apply it, you’ll be improving yourself, and equally important you’ll be improving the world around you. It isn’t simple; it will require you to put in effort and work, but everything good in life requires effort. The rewards you will reap in your life, both personal and Masonic, will increase tenfold if you spend the time learning the new skills, and equally importantly, teaching what you already know to someone else.
I watched Bruce for many years teaching other men how to do things, and I’ve done my best to do the same. Now, it’s your turn; who will you teach?
WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!