Secret Charity

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

Several years ago, I heard the following story of Masonic charity from an older Brother:


A Lodge put together boxes of food to donate to families in need. After the boxes were assembled, the Lodge members set out into the community and distributed the boxes on porches of people they knew to be in need. When the boxes were discovered at the houses, the recipients were surprised by the good deeds. Overwhelmed with joy, they checked to see the source of the food. However, when they looked to see where the boxes came from, there were no notes attached. There was nothing to identify the source of the baskets. So, the families had no idea who had bestowed the gifts, making it a complete mystery..


Upon hearing the tale, a Brother that was listening asked why such a generous and selfless act was kept a secret? He said that from a public relations perspective, Masons should work to actively promote these kinds of positive stories. The response from the older Mason was that this is what Masons do and that we don’t seek out praise when performing charity. 


I understand the sentiment but with all due respect to that Brother, I am not sure if I totally agree with that idea. Yes, there are definitely some situations where we would want to be discreet. We don’t want to embarrass people in need or to seem opportunistic. For example, a Brother that has fallen on some hard times might struggle paying their Lodge dues. As a result they might seek out assistance from their Worshipful Master or Secretary regarding the payment of dues. We shouldn’t be broadcasting that info so that everyone knows about those individual situations. That should be kept private between those Brothers. 


In the example about the food baskets, drawing attention to the people that received the gifts could be extremely embarrassing for them. Revealing their identities would clearly be wrong, especially if they did not give their consent. We should always strive to help those in need while also preserving their dignity. However, should we keep our charitable works completely hidden? Don’t we have a duty as a Fraternity to let the public know that we are doing good works? Are we missing a chance to demonstrate the true nature of the Fraternity? Sadly, we live in a world where many in our society either have no awareness that Freemasons exist, or only know of us through conspiracy theories.


One possible approach to the basket distribution would have been to take pictures of the assembled baskets that could have been shared via social media. Those pictures could have included captions stating that the Brothers were going to distribute the food to families experiencing food insecurity. If such images were shared in online community groups, it would have been a guaranteed way to receive positive exposure and to let people know that we exist. Perhaps it could have even resulted in interest from potential candidates looking for ways to help others.


My Lodge participates in an Adopt a Highway program where we go out and clean a section of highly traveled road several times a year. Usually when we are out collecting trash we take pictures and post them to our social media accounts. Then we share the info through the local community’s social media groups to let people know that we exist AND that we are helping to improve and beautify the environment. The feedback is usually very positive and full of gratitude. It shows that Masons care.


Of course, we should avoid the appearance of bragging or coming off as insincere. That would be tasteless and inappropriate. Our messages regarding our charity should be authentic so that we have a genuine connection with those around us. As many in our Fraternity are concerned about membership levels,  it does not seem that as an organization we should let opportunities to demonstrate our benevolence slip by quietly. We should proudly highlight our good deeds.


Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

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