I was thinking about this again back in November, when President George H. W. Bush passed away. He made a remark in his nomination speech in 1988 about a thousand points of light that baffled many people. Nobody seemed to really get what he was talking about. He repeated that concept of a thousand points of light at his inaugural address in 1989. What’s been forgotten is that he was talking about community organizations like ours. Small points of light in a sea of darkness doing our good works—building men, building stronger communities, serving as pillars of the community, helping those who are less fortunate. I knew what the President was talking about, because I remembered that flight and how all those small lights below looked from far above.
It’s very easy for us to become discouraged at times as Freemasons. We aspire to live by a very different set of rules than other men do, and that can make us feel very much alone at times. We can feel as if we’re living our life by standards that seem outdated to many people in our modern society. We look at the problems of the modern world, and we wonder if all our efforts to improve ourselves, and to make this world a better place aren’t a giant waste of time.
I’ve felt that way from time to time, and when I start thinking like that, I just look at my map. I have a map on my wall at home of the Eastern Masonic Area of Illinois. I have all one hundred Lodges in that area marked on my map with a pin—from above my map looks a lot like that view out of the airplane window so many years ago—that map is covered in pins. And if I were to mark the homes of all the Masons that belonged to all those Lodges? Add all the churches, temples, and synagogues and the homes of all their members. Add the Odd Fellows Lodges and their members. The Lions Club. Rotary Club. American Legion. Boy and Girl Scouts. And there are many more such groups and individuals among us, aren't there? Why feel discouraged? I doubt if we marked all those groups and those individuals on our map, we'd even be able to see it for all the pins!
We are not alone in this effort of making the world a better place—each of us carries a light, and as Masons our Lodges help us focus that light. We’re scattered out all over the state of Illinois, the country, and the world. But we're hardly alone in this effort. Millions are with us, and we have a tremendous advantage as lights in the world--even a very small light in the darkness can be seen for many, many miles.
President George H. W. Bush made another comment in his 1989 inaugural speech that I think applies to Freemasons in particular. He said, “The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless . . .”
A version of this article was originally written for and published by The Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL) Valley Echos Newsletter