There is a question I have been frequently asked. In fact, it is a question that I was asked to present an answer to, to a group of people recently who were considering Masonry in their lives. On a relatively regular basis I seem to have questions presented to me that require some thought and personal evaluation. This question doesn’t really necessitate so much reflection as is required with others but it has significant value in my life. The question is “Why did you become a Mason?” The answer is multi-faceted. It encompasses so many aspects of my day to day life. But I don’t know that I can explain it in terms of how it has impacted my being in this forum and being relatively brief. I guess it requires a starting point previous to Freemasonry being introduced to me, however writing a general history of my life is not something I care to partake in here. Those stories are for another time! So what I have found in Masonry?
Charity. Charity on a much bigger scale than donating a couple bucks to the local fire department or helping out a neighbor in need has always been of relative importance to me. I don’t mean the kind of charity where I’ll do this for you if you help me out later. I find great amounts of satisfaction in doing something for someone else, sometimes without telling anyone, and almost always never wanting anything in return or necessarily being recognized for that. I do it at work. And for this purpose I will explain it somewhat. We have a fund set up nationally for associates in need. They typically ask for one dollar a week from your paycheck on a purely voluntary basis. This fund is for associates who are under extreme duress or conditions beyond their control. We also do a fund drive locally in the store if one of our own associates is in dire circumstances and presents a need. Whatever we raise for the associate, the company will match dollar for dollar. It’s a great generosity that our company employs. I think we average around 40% of associates give a buck. Again, not for recognition but just for this purpose I will share that I give $15 every week. I have for years now. It’s not a large amount of money. But a letter was sent out thanking me and someone at work saw it and were blown away and a little confused that I had donated 680 last year. I thought this a very small drop in a large bucket as I have seen the help it provides. We had an entire store destroyed by a storm in Jasper last year as well as a store flooded in Binghamton. Those associates were destitute, without work for months and some of them lost their homes too. I kicked in a big chunk extra just for those purposes. I didn’t see a lot of charity anymore. I was beginning to see a lot of abuse of charity organizations. When we have cookouts at work to raise money for an associate we usually ask for $5 donations. I see the abuse of it. It had started to become disheartening to me. So I would throw in $25 and not eat the food or perhaps pay into a raffle and not take the tickets. It’s just something ingrained in me to be of service as I could not be of service for so long in my life before. It’s incredibly important to me to give to someone if I know them or not if I have the means to do so and sometimes to help when I don’t know that I can. I don’t always. Charity is a driving force in Masonry. It attracted me almost as much as the history and brotherhood of this organization. As a Masonic organization we donate over 2 million dollars a day to charity. The Childrens Burn Hospitals are run and paid for by Masons. We are active in giving of our time, money, and care everyday globally and locally. My lodge puts on a big spaghetti dinner every first friday. All of the proceeds are donated to youth organizations around Webster. Last year we raised over 11000 dollars for kids to get uniforms, or go on trips or whatever they needed money for. We just finish Have-a Heart campaign for the Ronald McDonald House. So, charity! One of my first events with my Lodge was partaking in a parade where we helped the fireman and some of us marched. The streets lined with residents were clapping for my Brothers as they walked past. People were walking into the street to shake hands and say hellos and say thank you. It was then that I realized that I had joined a group of men who care about their communities and give back as much as they can. It had a profound affect on me.
Brotherhood! Before I was asked to become a Mason I was really beginning to lose hope in humanity. I really started to withdraw for humankind as a whole. Everyday around me I was beginning to see the division in people, the contempt and violence and lack of decency was having a tremendous impact on me. In Masonry I have found a true brotherhood of men who will give everything, ask for nothing, and only want to help each other become better men. We take good men and make them better. There have only been a very few number of men in my lifetime who have demonstrated the unconditional love and support that these men show everyday. We have good fun, we call each other on our “shit” for lack of a better term and a Brother will always support another Brother. Not only is it his duty but it’s what he wants to do. It is a family built on charity, brotherhood, virtue, moral codes and ideals. I look forward to every gathering we have and continue to look for other ways to bring Masonic values into my life. This is a group of men who not only care about their Brothers, but about their families even after they have passed. I’ve never truly felt I belonged somewhere until I became a Mason. These values are constantly creeping into my thoughts. When I’m driving a car, dealing with a less than ideal customer situation, or having conversations around the water fountain. Those values are ever present. That Scottish Rite emblem on the back of my truck is telling the everyone on the road how a Mason behaves.
Such an incredibly rich history, steeped in conspiracy, has always attracted me. I am a student of history. I dove into “secret societies” and politics and european history with a fervor. I loved to try to find the truth underlying things. When I was first approached about becoming a Mason I really didn’t know what to expect. But what I found is exactly what I described about. A rich history, steeped in tradition which I believe we are all missing today. A brotherhood based in virtue. And charity of untold generosity. Some of my Brothers took it upon themselves to gather donations for Hurricane Sandy affected areas on the coast. They communicated with other Brothers in Massachusetts and Maine and together brought over 6 tons of aid to folks in need. Not people they knew, but people who were in need. Diapers, and heaters and formula, and clothing and shovels and water and medicines for adults and children by the trailer load. These are men of compassion, empathy and the spirit of charity lives in them everyday. This is also a group of brothers that when I was dealing with an upsetting situation, they knew without me telling them. As soon as I walked into the room that night they came over with hugs, encouragement and empathy. Some of these guys I had only met once or twice before. These are my Brothers. I am proud to be a Free and Accepted Mason!
So in closing today a surprise was brought home by my bride! Her grandfather George Hatch was a Mason and an Oddfellow ( a group separate from Masonry). When he passed no one knew about the apron he was given. Nobody really knew much of anything about the Masons as he didn’t discuss it. “Going to Lodge” was all he would say! And when they had heard from the Masons about his service and looked for it it was not found. It has been found and she brought it home sent by her Uncle Carl. This is something that is held in great awe and respect by me. There were some other things with it that what I can say are emblems, symbols of a deep meaning and teaching to me and too any other Masons who have passed through their degrees. I cannot go into that in this forum. George was raised a Master Mason in 1958. His grandfather was an officer of the Genessee Lodge in 1901. We are not blood relatives, and I did not know George very well when he passed, but I am honored to carry on that tradition and to lay my Lambskin next to his! So mote it be.
There are some things I can’t discuss with those that are not Masons, but not much. If you have any questions pertaining to Masonry / Freemasonry / Scottish Rite please don’t hesitate to ask. We are not a secret society, we are everywhere involved in our communities. You will see the emblems on your Village signs, you will see us out doing highway clean ups. We are a brotherhood of men steeped in history and virtue with a few things pertaining to degrees we don’t talk about outside of Lodge. Most of you probably have someone in your life or in your past who was a Mason but you didn’t know. Grandfathers, fathers, uncles… you knew they were doing something but just not quite sure what it was. Like my wife’s grandpa! Ladies if this has you feeling left out, don’t feel that way at all! Order of the Eastern Star is for you!!
Thanks for letting me babble!
Master Mason & Junior Master of Ceremonies Webster Lodge #538 F& AM
32 nd Degree AASR Scottish Rite Valley of Rochester