Reaction vs. Response
Two weeks before I traveled to Grand Lodge, I was talking with a friend about the difference between a reaction and a response. I like the way Quora compares the two. "Reaction is quick. Response takes time. Reaction is emotion-filled. Response removes all emotion. Reaction is often aggressive. Response allows for assertiveness without aggression. Reaction snowballs into unnecessary and prolonged periods of discontent and disagreement. Response resolves conflict quickly." I thought of that conversation when our Grand Master, MW William M. Sardone, proudly announced during his address, that New York State is launching an awareness campaign to address sagging membership numbers. He played two commercial videos while he laid out the distribution details; we were going to reach new men interested in Freemasonry online and in-person. As he said, "New York is going to do something." You can image the sideline conversations that came after that announcement! Soon there will be Facebook ads, billboards in high traffic areas, and operators standing by to take the calls of prospective gentlemen interested in visiting a Lodge. This was not a reaction - this was a response!
The lunch break conversation at my table that afternoon was focused on the Grand Master's announcement. We concluded that MW Sardone was right; Freemasonry was not passed from the greatest generation (who never talked about Lodge), to baby boomers (who didn't know about Masonry), to millennials (who can't find a Lodge). The Brothers I shared lunch with that afternoon were from a Lodge that owns its building and is now struggling to afford the up-keep that has been passed to the incoming Masters for years. I asked the Master, "How would your Lodge be different if you had 300 members back on your rolls?" "We wouldn't have to worry about how we were going to pay for our roof repairs," he instantly replied. "But would your meetings be different," I probed. "I don't know," he said.
"What Night Do You Guys Meet?"
Back to those "good" talks. At Penn Station, our growing party of 12 Brothers heading home from Grand Lodge took in three more traveling men. These three were fresh from Midtown still in their black suits and ties. They didn't have luggage. They didn't stay in a hotel. No, these Brothers took the morning train down from Albany to attend the second-day session, hopped back on the train to make it home for their Lodge meeting that night. The same meeting, come to find out, that was also their election night. I was the fourth in our seating group that included their Master, Senior Warden, and Secretary. We had the best conversation on "culture" that I have shared in a long time. This was the kind of talk that made a two-hour ride home seem like 20 minutes.
How much do you value your time? The first thing I hear when I ask a friend how are things? "I'm busy." Too busy to return calls, answer emails, even come over for dinner with the guys. I get it; we're all busy, that is part of the problem. The other half is we see our time; I'm talking about the "not at work, few hours you get with your family and loved ones on Saturday" time - as that sacred space that would take an act of God to upset. We value OUR time more than anything else. There's a reason why you can order the same thing on your phone and get it to your house tomorrow. Time has value.
What is worth your time to see LIVE? Better yet, what must be done in person? That is where the real value is: the experience. We'll watch the game at home but go to see a three-hour movie in a packed theater because seeing it --- feeling it with everyone else --- makes it better. Does anyone else say, "Monday night is my Lodge night." Followed by, "Well, every 1st and 3rd Monday of the week from September to May." Brothers who value their Lodge time do. And when you meet them, you ask, "what nights do you guys meet again?"
Our conversation eventually evolved into Masonry, as these three couldn't wait to tell me what works in their Lodge. They shared how they onboard new members, how the guys all share in the pre and post-meeting roles (setup and tear down) to close their meetings by 9 PM, and that when a candidate takes his 1st Degree, he feels like he's already a member of that Lodge. That last one was my favorite point. What they were saying wasn't anything new --- it wasn't a directive from Grand Lodge --- they had a culture that was leading from the ground up. The Brothers held each other accountable if you brought a guy in to petition a Lodge, you were expected to be at his degrees and help him with the degree work. Brick by brick. They were raising this Lodge together, building it from individual stones into one common mass. You join a conversation like this, and you can't help but soak up the positive energy.
I asked the Master, how would things be different if instead of three or four candidates a year, they had 15, say from the new Grand Lodge awareness campaign. The Secretary said, "We'd be a little overwhelmed at first..." his voice trailed but before he could finish, "but we'd be able to change our system to adapt," the Master finished. "Yeah, nothing would change why we do it because all of the guys in our Lodge get it, this is what they want," the Senior Warden said. Perhaps that is the larger question we should be asking. If three interested gentlemen showed up at our next meeting, walked in right off the street, would we be ready to greet them? Better yet, would we be a good fit for them? We talked about culture, that shared attitude which drives everything and separates winning teams from the rest of the pack. Good or bad, your Lodge has a culture right now. Here's a quick test you can do to assess your culture. If your Lodge was a store, based on your level of customer service, which one would you be? It's also fair to ask, would you choose to shop there?
Ironically, MW Sardone revealed his updated "Building the Future" Grand Master's pin, on the final day of Grand Lodge, with the additional line "Share the Experience." As we neared the train station in Albany, I needed confirmation from my travel companions as we gathered our luggage to disembark. "You guys meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, right?" I cannot wait to visit their Lodge in September.
Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org