I began writing this piece before the Corvid-19 pandemic. Since this writing, my respect for these people who work selflessly caring for patients, some of them have illnesses that could potentially affect the caregiver’s own health. I have personally seen some of these people who have worked long hours, day after day trying to cope with material shortages and being away from their families, some self-isolating themselves from their families to keep them safe. My respect for these people which was already high has reached an entirely new level.
I want to dedicate this work to all the first-line responders. The healthcare workers and all of first responders, Police officers and firefighters, the dispatchers who watch over them, the truck drivers, restaurant workers, and store personnel who keep all of us fed, comfortable in our homes and everyone supplied. None of us could survive this without you. I know this isn’t much, but I just want to say thank you for all your hard work and dedication.
A few months ago, I was invited to attend a corporate retreat my Fiancé’s company holds on a bi-annual basis. Since I was a guest, I was not compelled to attend meetings and seminars the actual attendees had to attend. Most of my time was spent enjoying the beautiful scenery of Branson, Missouri, and what the resort offered. I had to endure such things as spending time at the spa and relaxing in the resort’s hot tub. (It was hard, but I endured). The downtime and change of scenery allowed me to rest and reflect on many subjects.
My fiancée’s organization is unique to many of the organizations that other people work for. Her group runs a series of nonprofit hospitals throughout the United States. They hold a rich history of charity work that spans two centuries throughout the world. The corporation, which is a modern company, still runs on the beliefs established during those days by the order’s founder. Each employee is encouraged to use these values in the career world and hopefully also in their personal lives.
During one of the dinners during the seminar one of the senior executives began to speak to guests assembled. He began his speech by thanking all the coworkers assembled and reviewing some of the accomplishments the local hospitals have achieved and acknowledging some of the outstanding efforts of the individuals who went above and beyond what is expected of them in service to the hospital and their local community.
Once the applause settled down, the executive began to tell the crowd some of his experiences which helped him form his “Call to Service”. The experiences included being able to help a lady, who had extraordinarily little money, receive medical care which helped, in the end, save her life. The man told the assembled crowd how grateful she was and how being able to offer someone a helping hand affected his career and how it affected him on a personal basis spiritually. You could tell by his expression and the tone in his voice that the experience shaped his life positively.
Later, I asked my fiancé what exactly a “Call to Service” was. She explained that when a person goes to work for her organization, they are encouraged to develop a call to service during their career. Which, when boiled down to its simplicity, is using the skills and gifts which are given to them by their creator into a passion and using this passion to serve the hospital, which in turn serves their local community and the world around them which will in the end serve God.
If you think about it, it takes many sets of hands to cure the sick. Naturally, we think of the doctors, nurses, and techs who use their talents to make people well again. However, behind these frontline people, there are people who work in the background, using their God-given talents and passions to ensure these people have the materials and proper environment to allow these people use their hands to heal the sick, comfort the hurting, and change people’s lives for the better.
This includes everyone else, from the cooks in the kitchen preparing nutritious food to the janitors who keep the hospital sanitary and free from germs that cause infections to the security officers who keep everyone safe. Even the people who keep patient records, which ensure a doctor can look at a patient’s medical history and see what treatments have been tried in the past and even give healthcare workers due and prompt notice of allergies a patient might have which if not known can cause more harm than good to a person they are treating. Each of these people, and many more, work every hour of the day, even weekends and holidays throughout the year to make sure their friends and neighbors and possibly their own loved ones receive the best care that a mortal can nobly give to their fellow man. In this case, I believe the old cliché is correct; “It takes a village”.
The more I have thought about it, I have realized nearly every successful company or non-profit group, whether it is a church or your jurisdiction’s very own Masonic home works in this way. A person uses his God-given talents and abilities to do the best job his talents will allow. So, my question is why don’t we do the same thing in our lodges?
Authors note 2: Before you start posting nasty reminders to me in emails and various posts reminding me “Freemasonry is not a religion”. I am totally aware of that. Any comments of the sort will probably be replied to with an eye-roll and a sarcastic comment.
Last Sunday, while watching a sermon of a pastor from a local church, something clicked in my head. I think it may be an issue lodges are having as well as many churches. The pastor of this church is new. She is trying to rebuild the congregation to the numbers it once had or even help it grow even larger. One of her first acts after being hired was talking to each member of the congregation. Asking them questions such as: “What are your strengths?”, and “What are your passions?”. She wanted to determine how they would like to serve the church. She then gave the congregation a questionnaire, aka an assessment test, which has been used by the denomination to find out where everyone’s strengths lie and how they best can serve.
The pastor said she had done these years before at another church she was assigned to. The church was barely holding on. All the members who had kept this church together for many years were aging and frankly very tired and were sure they couldn’t do it much longer. After she gave the assessment to the parishioners, she discovered that all of them had been contributing to the organization in the wrong roles all those years. The grind of performing tasks they were ill-suited for or did not like to perform tired them out to the point they were burned out.
They all declined when she approached the church’s leadership with her findings and gave them a proposal. They all said they were “too tired” or “burned out” to try to contribute to the church in a different role. The pastor finished her story saying after that meeting the church closed within two years. Sound familiar?
Now don’t get me wrong. I know why the Brethren of our lodges fulfill multiple positions within our lodges. Our manpower is scarce. That is very true. Unfortunately in some lodges, that will never change and sadly, their light will dim and eventually go out altogether. But is it that way in every lodge?
I truly believe in some ways the reason these Brethren are wearing many hats is our own fault. I think almost every one of us can think of several Brothers who were brought to light in the last few years in a lodge only to quit coming in a few months to a year? Ask yourself: How did you use that man? Or did you use him at all?
I would lay even money if he was given anything at all to do, he was given an officer’s jewel and brought into the progressive line. Whether he planned on being an officer or not. Within a few years (If he stayed around), he was staring at that Master’s jewel as if it were a noose to be placed around his neck and the Oriental chair as if it were the gallows. How many times have you heard a young Brother Senior Warden say, “I don’t think I am ready.” Then a Past Master ends up filling the chair for a year. We find out all he wanted to do in the first place was join for the education. We never did find out: “For that what are you in pursuit of?". We didn't find out because we didn’t ask him. We never asked him what his passions were or what he feels he could contribute to the lodge. For some reason, we as Masons seem to want to take every man and put them in the same pigeonhole, fit every peg into the round hole whether it be square or not. Depending on the lodge, we want our main priority to be some kind of “off the rack”, “one size fits all” Masonic experience.
A few years ago, Brothers Robert Johnson and Jon Ruark wrote a book entitled “It's Business Time: Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry”. Now before you get your panties in a wad and start gathering the tar and feathers listen with an open mind. Brothers Johnson and Ruark brought up the idea of adapting business principles to the day-to-day business of the lodge (They did not, and I am not turning our fraternity into a for-profit venture). Basically, what it means is we operate our lodges with some common sense and not with emotions and by legends that may or not be true. "But, We have always done it that way!". Chances are if you read the history of your Lodge and Grand Lodge, it hasn’t always been done that way and it may never have actually been done that way... To survive, we must consider a few new ideas. One of those ideas, I believe is to give a man in the lodge he is suited for.
For this article, I am talking about delegation of duties. As we all know by now in our lives, not every man is the same as the man next to him. They have different likes, dislikes, talents, and abilities; so why not put them to use?
Instead of making a man who is a stockbroker the cook for the pre-meeting dinner for an entire year, (Or if you are in Texas the Stewards for two years. Your mileage may vary depending on your jurisdiction), why not find a man who is good at or enjoys cooking to make the meal? There is a good chance that a stockbroker if he must cook for himself at home, would probably just microwave a TV dinner, order a pizza or order something from a delivery service after a hard day of work. I am sure after a remarkably busy day the last thing he is wants to make a meal for 20 guys who are going to complain about what he makes anyway. So, he will arrive at the lodge and throw a frozen lasagna he got at the wholesale club into the lodge oven (if the oven still works) and serve it on paper plates and plastic utensils. If you find a Brother who loves to cook and is good at it, and if he could really care less about being a lodge leader, then let him be your full-time chef. He will take pride in his work and your stomach will thank you for it! (You will have to endure a lot less Banquet fried chicken or Salisbury steak if you do). The money you will save on Rolaids would fund your dues for next year!
Sometimes a man is terrified at speaking in public. His whole life he has avoided doing it and has no desire to do it in the future. His day-to-day vocation is as a building maintenance supervisor that works on heating and air-conditioning. He is trying to join the lodge to spend time with other men and make new friends. He won’t stay long if his “new friends” are constantly on his back trying to get him in front of the lodge to perform our ritual. He will be out that same door he came in before you know it. I’ll lay even money that new Brother would be more than happy to help the lodge help maintain the lodge building and seeing his “new friends” have a safe and comfortable place to meet. That is his passion and his gift.
I remember one year in my Mother Lodge, there was a Brother who could not memorize anything! He was a wonderful guy, but he just couldn’t remember the words to the ritual, so the opening and closing of the lodge took twice and long when he was Master because he had to be fed every word he had to say. We all have seen degree work done by Brethren who either could not remember the words or delivered the work poorly. Honestly, it reflects poorly upon us. You always hear the old saying: “Well, the candidate didn’t know he screwed it up!” In some cases that may be true, but I am sure even a poor blind candidate can tell something is amiss when the Brother must repeat the same thing three times or hear another voice feed him the line. (I know I did!) Instead of putting ourselves and our candidates through this torment, find Brethren who enjoy acting or who find memorization easy or fun.
On the other side of the coin, this Brother was a whiz at business and a very successful entrepreneur. He had all kinds of fantastic ideas for raising funds for the lodge, (Besides doing a fish fry), and if the: “We never done it this way” mentality wouldn’t have extinguished his fire he and a group of others would have put the lodge on a sound financial footing.
Freemasons are in a unique position, especially currently in history. Men who wish to become Freemasons come from all walks of life. Men that are Blue-collar or white-collar, highly educated men, and men who know how to work with their hands, men of every interest and field. Each man who is “Worthy and well qualified” to pass through that West Gate and knock on the door of a lodge is special and has a gift given to him by the Grand Architect of the Universe.
Just like it took many specialized workmen to erect King Solomons Temple, the same holds true today. We don't need the wisdom of Solomon to recognize we need the skilled workmen to keep our Masonic edifice strong. If we would put our God-given talents to good use and allow every Brother to follow their call to service, our Fraternity would be the strongest it has ever been. (And by the way, we wouldn’t have a recruiting problem or as I like to say a member retention problem.)
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this, he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.