Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Nine Lives of a Masonic Lodge

The internet tells me that a guy named Erik Erikson came up with a theory about eight stages of psychosocial development. Since eight is close to nine, I figured I would use his well thought out stages as the starting point for a talk about the nine lives of a Lodge. My legal team advises me that for the record, I should state that this is more of an homage than any sort of plagiarism. And since I added a stage, I’m already far more creative than Erik Erikson’s parents were when they named him. Legal asked me to take that last sentence out. I told them no.

Infancy, or We have a Warrant, now what? Standard Lodge No. 3579 (totally fake name) is now a constituted to work as a Subordinate Lodge. There is much to be done, but with hardly a dollar in the bank, they can’t do much more than gurgle, coo, and put their toes in their mouths. Fortunately they have a lot of siblings in the District who will help.

Early Childhood, or Let’s get growing. Standard is meeting in another Lodge’s building for now, but they are excited. The officers and members attack every problem in front of them as soon as it arises. They meet a couple of nights a week to coordinate fund raisers, pick regalia and supplies, and plan for the future. It is interesting to note that there is no distinction here between Officer and Member involvement. A large percentage of each shows up to lend a hand at every event.

Preschool, or Time to make friends. Standard is now meeting four or five nights each month to confer degrees. They have nearly doubled in size since they were given their Warrant. Outside of Lodge, the members are eager to talk of their Masonic involvement, and the joys of creating something all their own; consequently, their friends enquire about joining. The world is theirs for the taking.

School Age, or There sure is a lot to learn. At this stage, learning is fun, though. The Trustees now actually have money to invest, and they are able to generate some income. They ask their sibling Lodges for advice, and more importantly, they are willing to listen to it. The Lodge has just a few Past Masters, and they are still willing to help when called on.

Adolescence, or I need my own space. Standard is now thriving. They love their siblings, but sharing a room is becoming more challenging. They have made some great investments and the excited and active membership is willing to donate money, time, and energy to construct their own Lodge building. For most Lodges, this is the longest life stage. It can last 20 years or it can last 150 years. As long as the members work in harmony with each other, the Lodge can stay right here and prosper. If discord begins to develop and is left untreated, though, the Lodge will enter the next phase.

Young Adulthood, or You’re not the boss of me. The Lodge enters this phase when one of two things happens: either the new officers do not feel that they are being allowed to govern the way they choose, or the Past Masters feel that they are being marginalized. It is not difficult to see both sides of this argument, and many of us have worn both sets of those shoes at some point in our Masonic career. Once interpersonal problems begin, members will begin to choose sides. If these problems aren’t addressed, the Lodge will begin to fracture. If Standard’s up and coming officers survive the Young Adulthood phase, they will, with some luck, be able to return to the glory days of adolescence.
We have all fantasized about getting to relive our youth, and if Standard is smart, it can learn from its early mistakes and begin to live in harmony again. If not, things will get a lot worse.

Middle Age, or Kids these days. If they do not learn from their mistakes, more and more Past Masters will have to step up to fill chairs and do the work that they thought they had retired from. They love the Lodge too much to watch it fall apart so they do what they must to get by. If those who are tasked to repeat offices or fill chairs do it with a terrible attitude, complaining about the new members not pulling their weight, the situation will worsen quickly. No man has ever chosen to be a Mason so he can sit in a room and listen to people complain, and if that’s what he hears, he won’t do much more than attend sporadically.

Old Age, or Hey you brats, get off of my lawn. Standard is now being run almost entirely by Past Masters. Outside of the Officers, few people even attend Lodge. Money may not be an issue, but vigor certainly is – their pulse is thready at best. A few new Masons join, but they are quickly disillusioned by the lack of energy and opportunity that awaits them and consequently do not get involved.

Death, or I can’t be sick; I feel fine. Standard failed to heed the warning signs, and now it has to make the difficult decision to merge. There really is no reason to expound upon this; we have all seen it and know how sad and ugly it can be.

Where is your Lodge? Are you worried? Don’t be. The good news is that, no matter which of the first eight stages your Lodge finds itself in, the aging process can be reversed. It may not be easy, but until death, no Lodge is terminal.

It may will take effort, time and money, but it can be turned around. If your Lodge has trouble finding officers, identify a few who have run the Lodge well in the past. They should have energy, a positive attitude and willingness to serve again. Ask them to serve in succession, maybe even multiple terms if they are willing, and to develop a long range plan.

Make your Lodge a place that people want to visit. If it looks the same as it did fifty years ago, perhaps that’s why the younger members aren’t coming out. Paint, furniture and wi-fi don’t cost that much, but they send the signal that the Lodge is looking toward the future and not living in the past. That is the message that you want new Members to take home.

Finally, give your Brothers a reason to come. Great programs are essential to Lodge success. Entertaining programs can sometimes cost money. So spend it. Have a nice meal, invite the families, and pay a good speaker. Advertise it with a separate flyer – printed in color (gasp!) – in the monthly notice. Make the Brethren want to come out.

So is your Lodge going to be nimble, vibrant and young at heart or is it going to sit in its rocking chair and complain about how candy bars used to cost a nickel and were twice as big as they are now? The choice is yours.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Seven Deadly Cynics

I can be cynical sometimes. My guess is that none of you who knows me personally just gasped at that revelation. In my own defense, my cynicism is born from the fact that it can sometimes make people laugh, and I enjoy making people laugh. Again, no one gasped. The problem is that just as a good attitude can be contagious, so can a bad one.

In a Masonic context, cynicism wears many faces, and the damage that it causes can range from something as seemingly harmless as depleting the energy and excitement of the members to the total destruction of the Lodge. There are several different kinds of cynics that you are likely to spot in your Masonic travels. I’m sure there are far more than seven, but I stopped there so I could make use of clever wordplay in the title of this column. (Remember, I like to be funny sometimes.) I will not try to explain what motivates each of these cynics; I will leave that to the psychologists. I will, however, try to offer ways to combat those attitudes

It will never work. The Brother who comes to the meetings with a litany of reasons why we should keep doing things just like we have is usually the first to remind you of how crowded the Lodge used to be, how busy they were conferring degrees or how much time and money they spent building the Lodge that you’re sitting in. What he forgets is that there used to be quality programs and frequent social events, even church visits in regalia. He also forgets that, at the time, his building, which was state of the art, and quite likely looks exactly - and I mean in a right-down-to-the-bright-orange-60s-modern-furniture-in-the-lobby kind of exactly – like it does now.

How do you fix it? Make it work. Have a family movie night complete with popcorn and pizza. Have a ladies' night with entertainment just for them while the meeting is taking place. As for the building, update the fixtures, furniture and carpet. Most of your Lodges can afford to do some or all of that. It’s amazing what a few changes to the building can do to the attitudes of the members.

Men join here just to get a ring. Also, men join here just so they can join the Shrine. Ask yourself if you’re giving them reasons to come back. What does Shrine do that we do not? While fun is part of their creed, it is not forbidden in ours.

We need to do something new, but we can’t get rid of that. Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – applies here. It is disturbing to talk to an incoming Master and hear that he has trouble bringing members out to Lodge, only to see his programs are an exact copy of the last three years. Things that don’t work should go away. We change light bulbs when they burn out. Why don’t we change Lodge programs when they do?

What’s the point? No one comes to Lodge anymore. Do we give them a reason to? If the only event listed on your Lodge notice is The Exemplification of the Examination of a Visitor, why would they bother? I would venture that, given the choice, many Masons would rather stay at home and watch a Real Housewives of Atlanta marathon than see the proper way to examine a visitor for the twentieth time. Give people a reason to come to Lodge. Don’t let that be the only draw, because quite frankly, it is not a draw. Schedule something afterward that has a broad appeal and invite their families so they don’t have to spend a night away.

 I already served as Master. It is time for someone else to step forward. We owe a great deal to those who have served before us, but as a Past Master, you must remember that the right to have the initials PM after your name comes with the implied responsibility to continue to serve when called upon. If you are tired of filling chairs, help the younger elected officers find a way to replace you. That may mean you need to pick up the phone and call someone. Just do it.

I’d like to step forward, but no one wants to give up their job. Ironically, I have heard this and the preceding complaint in the same Lodge during the same year.

Communicate. There can be a perception among new members, anxious to get involved, that they are unwelcome. If the new member, a chef by profession, can’t cook at the pancake breakfast because Bob has always done that, we are failing to use our assets wisely. Bob may be relieved that he can finally sleep in on a Saturday, and his new role as Mentor may give him renewed energy.

Who cares? We are nothing more than a social club. Most of you who have read my blog even a few times before know exactly how I feel about this. The fact that you are reading it right now indicates to me that you don’t agree with that either. I believe that the Brother who says that is voicing his frustration that our numbers have dwindled and that today’s Masonry isn’t what he fondly remembers from forty years ago, rather than the conviction that we have nothing to offer today’s man.

In all these examples, the underlying theme is fear of change. Glaciers change more quickly than Masons. We need to learn to be more fluid. When flowing water encounters a rock, it doesn’t stop and weep over the obstruction. It finds a way around. When you meet a cynic, you must do the same. Ask for his input. See what he would do. When he tells you, smile and thank him for volunteering to spearhead it.

If any of those descriptions reminded you of yourself, pledge to change your attitude. Pledge to change your Lodge. We can reach our full potential when we all work together.

If I were truly a cynic, I would conclude by saying, “Thank you for your time, though I doubt you were even paying attention.” I’m not a cynic though. I refuse to believe that our best days are behind us. Each of you is a Mason because you chose to be. You have a gift that Freemasonry can use. Offer it. Offer it and help us prove the cynics wrong.

We both know they are.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Five Points on Fellowship

There is a destiny that makes us brothers;
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own. ~ Edwin Markham

As Masons, we are doubtless familiar with the five points of fellowship, which serve as reminders of the duties we owe to our Brethren. That is not, however, what I want to talk to you about tonight. Instead, I want to highlight five points on fellowship in the hopes of enhancing our interpersonal experiences within the Craft.

First, fellowship needs common ground. Luckily, Freemasonry provides that through the shared experience of initiation. We all came to the outer door, humbly sought entry, and our admission to this inner sanctum was the first acknowledgement that we were part of a new family. That first step that you took across the threshold also served as the first step in beginning a new friendship.

Next, fellowship needs honesty – not a yes-that-dress-makes-you-look-fat kind of brutal honesty – but a commitment to being your true self in front of your Brethren. Look at the man to your right and the man to your left. It is safe to say that either’s life has not been without a struggle. Maybe one has trouble with his job. Maybe the other doesn’t feel he is being the best father or husband. Whatever his demon, you can be sure he is fighting it in much the same way you are fighting yours. When we greet each other on the level, and without pretense of perfection, we begin to build the framework of deep friendship.

If honesty is important to good fellowship, then it is essential that we do not judge. More simply, fellowship needs blinders. Does that mean that we are to drive the get-away car, acquiesce to every bad behavior, or enable our Brother in those things he struggles with? No. We are charged to correct his errors, support him, and help get him back on the right path. Wearing blinders means not condemning your Brother for his faults, but instead seeking to understand why he made them and assist him in changing his ways.

Fellowship needs an exchange. It cannot be one-sided. In order to receive honesty, one must be honest. To be heard, one must be willing to listen. A friendship is an intricate puzzle with all the tabs and blanks interlocking. At times, you will need to lean on your Brother, at other times, you will be the sturdy column for him when he needs it most. And it is important not to keep tabs. At times, you may feel that you are giving more than you are getting. If you feel like you are doing all the work, you probably are. That could change at any moment though, and in all likelihood, that Brother will remember your kindness and be there for you.

Lastly, fellowship needs nourishment. That can come in many forms. In the literal sense, some of the strongest bonds I have formed within this Fraternity have come in the social time before and after the meetings. The regimented structure of our meetings does not encourage the strengthening of one-on-one ties, but it does serve as an incubator for those feelings of goodwill and belonging that can be strengthened over dessert, coffee, and conversation after we adjourn.

In the abstract sense, fellowship is fed by time. All of things I mentioned earlier? They take time. Common ground, honesty, forgiveness, and exchange – none of those comes naturally or instantly. Time is the most essential element to good friendships. Just as a flower opens one petal at a time, so do we slowly learn to trust enough to reveal our true selves to one another.

The following has been attributed to both George Eliot and Dinah Craik:

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

I love that sentiment. I also love that Freemasonry gives us the chance to have friends like that. Each of us probably had options on how we would spend this evening. We all chose to be here. When you go downstairs, tell someone why. It doesn’t have to be eloquent. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Let it be from your heart, and that will be more than sufficient.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Three Myths about Lodge Attendance

As I have traveled through the District, I have had the opportunity to speak with many Brothers about how the Lodge has evolved over the years. One thing is clear: it is without debate that today’s Masonic Lodge is not the same as one we might have visited thirty, forty, or fifty years ago.

The Lodge is different. Society is different. That is okay as long as we remain mentally nimble enough to recognize and adapt to change. Too often we hide behind excuses like “times have changed,” or “all social organizations have declining membership” to justify our unwillingness to see our Fraternity through the eyes of the next generation. In essence, these excuses have become anchors; not anchors that steady us in stormy seas, but ones which keep us from even unfurling our sails and leaving familiar shores. What follows is a list of the most common myths about Lodge attendance.

Today’s man is too busy to come to Lodge. The myth of the overbooked schedule has been around for ages. In an effort to explain declining attendance, people point to the 1950s and how the wife took care of the house and kids, giving the man an opportunity to go to his social club at night.

While that may be true, it is equally true that men today still spend time together. Cigar clubs, bowling alleys, restaurants, and bars are full of men socializing on nearly any night of the week. Men regularly take time away from their busy family schedules to watch their favorite teams compete. They even participate in sports like golf, tennis, hunting, and fishing without negatively impacting their home lives.

What we need to ask ourselves then, is why they aren’t choosing Freemasonry.

One reason is that we are viewed as a sort of dinosaur that somehow survived the Ice Age. We only have ourselves to blame for that. We have held on to our customs, refusing to adapt to the change that has taken place around us. I was at a Lodge last June, and the program was . . . anyone? Anyone? You guessed it – Strawberry Night. I will resist the urge to begin a rant about how Strawberry Night is no more of a Lodge program than Freemasons at Gettysburg is a side dish for your roast beef dinner. At this meeting, there were thirteen of us – the Lodge officers, one visitor and me. Sadly, I can almost guarantee you that this year’s program for June will also be Strawberry Night.

If we fail to observe what it is that young men want, choosing instead to give them what the men of the 1950s wanted, we are sure to fail.

“Fine,” you say, shaking your head. “No one is going to want to _________.” No matter how you complete that sentence, as long as it is an activity that is within the bounds of decorum and social responsibility, it is simply untrue. In your Lodge, there is someone who would: go to an art museum, flower show, or concert. There is also someone who would volunteer at the food bank, homeless shelter, or church. There are still others who would attend yoga class, golf, ride a motorcycle, or shoot sporting clays. There is simply no way to know what people will do until you give them a chance to do it.

How do you measure the success of a first time event? Not by attendance. Every Lodge has a few intrepid souls who will brave the new adventures without fear or hesitation. Likewise, every Lodge has those who will sit by and see how the first run goes before they commit - rushing blindly into the unknown universe of ballroom dancing is reckless, after all. Quite simply, we should gauge success by the quality of the time shared, the bonds created, and the memories made.

The last, and arguably the most damaging myth is that Freemasonry has nothing to offer today’s young man.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. There exists no organization that offers a man what Freemasonry does. We give men a deeply symbolic, moving initiatic experience, an illuminated path to being their best selves, and a chance to meet men they would never have had the occasion to meet anywhere else. Additionally Masonry comes with an extended family that literally spans the globe. Masons are never alone, never without help, and never far from a friend.

Don’t believe the myths. Men need us, but they need to know about us. Don’t assume that your young neighbor doesn’t have the time to join a Lodge. Ask him. Let him know that if he gives us his time, we can teach him to be a better husband, father, and son. Don’t be timid about trying new events. People will come, maybe slowly at first, but they will come. Finally, don’t forget that what we offer is valuable. We take ordinary men and make them . . . Freemasons.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Acts of Compassion

Several years ago, Brother and Dr. Ron Marshall’s developmentally disabled daughter was flying alone from Florida to Pittsburgh. The weather was bad and the plane was experience a good bit of turbulence. She was scared. She saw another passenger wearing a ring like daddy’s, so she approached him and told him her dad and brother had the same ring and that she was afraid. She asked if she could sit with him.

Without hesitation, this man switched his seat. He spent the remainder of the flight comforting her, assuring her that the bumps were not going to hurt her, and that they would land safely. After the flight, he accompanied her all the way past security and would not release her to her brother until he had examined him and found him to be a Mason, satisfying himself that she was safe and with the right people. When I asked Brother Marshall if I could share this story with his name attached, he replied, “Absolutely. I am so proud of this Fraternity because of how it took care of her.”

Similarly, this spring, Brother Danny Custodio, a Master Mason from San Juan, Puerto Rico contacted the Grand Lodge because his mother had been involved in an automobile accident in downtown Pittsburgh. 

She called him early that morning, telling him that at 6:30 on her commute into work, her car was struck by a woman who then fled the scene. Danny’s mom was uninjured, so she pursued the woman for several blocks through Pittsburgh crowded rush hour streets (do not try this at home) until the woman finally pulled over. Once the police arrived, the woman was detained for driving under the influence. His mom assured him that she was okay, but Danny was concerned. He wanted to make sure that his mom was not downplaying the severity of the accident or her own condition. What could he do ease the helplessness when more than 1,700 miles and an ocean stood between him and his mom? He needed to know she was okay, but he had no family in Pittsburgh to help him.

Oh wait, of course he did. 

He reached out to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania who saw to it that someone made contact with her. Brother Bob Geiger and others called and stopped by to make sure she was okay and to see if there was anything she needed. She was overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern. She was touched not only by the deep love her son had for her, but by how, as she said, “someone who doesn’t even know me, or him for that matter, would take the time to make sure I’m okay.” 

“Your son is our Brother,” she was told, “and this is what we do for each other. I know he would do the same for any of us.”

Danny was equally grateful. He was touched, though not at all surprised, that his Brothers answered his call. “[Plum Creek-Monroeville Lodge] will always have a special place in my heart for what you did for my mom and me,” he said. He added that what he referred to as a “wonderful act of compassion” now appears in the minutes of Hiram’s Disciples Lodge No. 104.

Tales like that remind me of why I love this Fraternity so much, and why the value of what we have will always far exceed what it costs us to belong. We are Master Masons. We are Brothers helping Brothers. The stories of Brothers Marshall and Custodio should remind us that we – all of us – are lucky enough to be part of a family that truly does not deem it a hardship to serve each other. As sure as I sit here, I know in my heart that those same Brothers who were shown an unexpected kindness would do the same in return when called upon. They understand that being a part of something special requires you to be special yourself.

I share these stories so that when someone asks you what’s so extraordinary about the Masons, you have yet another answer.

Freemasonry is great because time and again, individual Masons are given the chance to turn lofty ideals into noble action. It happens every day when a neighbor gets a ride to the Doctor’s office or a stranger in a parking lot is helped when her grocery bag rips open and spills its contents to the ground.

Never forget that you have the high privilege of being a part of the largest and greatest Brotherhood the world has ever known. The cost of that membership? Simply that, when and if you are fortunate enough to be able to serve one of your Brethren, you will do so willingly and to the best of your ability. 

Are you willing to pay that price?

Can you afford not to?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's in It From Me?

I began my Masonic journey in 1997.  On that November night, I was told by someone wise, “You get out of Masonry what you put into it.” What he said made sense to me then, and on some level, fifteen years later, it still does. When I hear that said today, after having experienced so many facets of the Craft, it seems both inaccurate and inadequate.

I get the meaning that it is supposed to convey: The more we put into it, the more we can expect to get out of it.  That’s simple and it’s logical. If one does not practice his golf swing, his score on the course is not likely to improve.  In the same way, if a new Mason gets his Degrees and never again darkens the door of the Lodge, he will be ill-equipped to strengthen his character or deepen the fraternal ties with his fellow Masons. 
Let me explain, though, why I take some exception to it.

I believe that it is inaccurate, in that what you put in, (the thing), in no way resembles what you get out. You may spend dozens, even hundreds of hours over the course of several months learning to confer a degree that lasts only an hour. In return you get the supreme honor of helping another on his quest to be the best man he can be. Likewise, when you donate to Masonic charities, you give money.  What you get back is the pride in knowing that your contribution to the Masonic Children’s Home or Masonic Youth groups helps pass on the core beliefs of the Craft to the next generation. Likewise, giving to Masonic Villages helps by caring for those who came before you. As a Mason, when you give time, you may receive honor. If you give money, you may receive a sense of pride. So what you get out is not what you put in.
Next, I believe that the saying is inadequate. I firmly believe that Masonry has given me far, far more than I could ever hope to give back. I never believed (and still have a hard time comprehending) that when the blindfold was lifted from my eyes, I would find myself in the presence of an ever-widening family – Brothers who would, with equal exuberance, celebrate my joys or help me in my darkest hours. They – you – would do so without question or hope of gain. Likewise, the few hours spent mentoring a new member is paid back with a lifetime friendship. The bonds which I have forged because of Freemasonry are deep, they are genuine and they are ineffable. Did I get out what I put in? Not even close. Freemasonry has enriched me beyond my expectations.

We live in a culture that puts personal wellbeing ahead of the greater good. Volunteerism is low, and membership in religious groups and fraternal organizations has continued to decline. There are many who believe that they are indeed the “I” in “society” and as its central letter, they should be worshipped and adored. They look at service and ask, “What’s in it for me?” As Freemasons, we must look at service and ask, “What’s in it from me?”

Now is the time when Lodges should begin planning for the ensuing year. Now, therefore, is the time for you to volunteer. It doesn’t matter which Lodge you belong to, your Lodge needs you. No Lodge is so flush with volunteers, be it for the Officer Line, as a Mentor, or even the pancake breakfast committee, that you will be turned away.

Whether you are an Entered Apprentice or a three-time Past Master, consider the call to service. Dedicate yourself to becoming Worshipful Master and your Brethren will be there to help you. Mentor and you will open up the world of Freemasonry and her lessons to men eager to dedicate themselves to something good. Volunteer with the youth and strengthen the foundation upon which the next generation may build.
Will you get out of it what you put into it? Absolutely not.
And isn't that a beautiful thing?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Gleanings

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ― Virgil Kraft

There really are a lot of things that I like about the winter. I love the look of new-fallen snow and the way it clings to barren branches; the way I’m forced to squint as the sun lights it up and appears to be coming from everywhere at the same time.  I love how all of the familiar sounds are muffled after a snow fall. I even find a sort of comfort and security in the extra layers of clothing that I wear. In spite of all the bad publicity it receives, I still can see a lot of good in the cold dark days of the winter.
Spring is finally here, however. Though a rodent from the 52nd Masonic District (Punxsutawney, PA is in the 52nd Masonic District of Pennsylvania) may argue the point, spring officially begins with the Vernal Equinox – literally equal night – and marks the date when the days begin to have more light than darkness.  Passover, Easter, and numerous other religious observances occur, not coincidentally, near the Equinox as it is symbolic of hope, new life, and new beginnings.
Even the land takes on a new quality. Trees and plants, which appeared to be doing nothing for months (though they were actually quite busy), are beginning to unfold their leaves or poke their heads out from under the ground.  Everything around seems to be growing, changing, evolving.
What about your Lodge? What about you? 
Think about it. As the winter came on, the Lodge shed its old leadership. The new Masters and Wardens had the winter to become accustomed to their roles. During those dormant months, new ideas had time to form, take root. Now, with the spring, they can begin the metamorphosis from thought to action. As each part of the budding plant has a role to play in seeing it reach its full beauty, so too does each Mason have a duty in helping the Lodge reach its full potential. What can you as an individual Mason do to help?  For starters, stop waiting to be asked. Let your Master know you want to lend a hand. It can be something you’re already skilled at or even something you would be willing to learn for the benefit of the Lodge.
Next to getting Lodges out of the well worn ruts of old traditions, the hardest thing for a Master to do is find bodies to see projects through. I have seen more than one Master who had great ideas and plans that he couldn’t complete because there were not enough people to help him. Lodges are a lot smaller than they were thirty years ago. In many cases, they are half the size, so that problem will get worse before it gets better. So raise your hand. Better yet, lend it.
I challenge the Lodges to reinvent themselves this year. Discard the things that don’t work.  Seek to be more involved in your community. If we seek only to take care of what’s inside these walls, no one on the outside will care if we survive. Conversely, if we become a presence in our communities, there will be men in those communities who seek a presence among us.
Brethren, I ask each of you to do one new thing for your Lodge this year. You can choose what it is, but it should be something you haven’t done before. Ask to be on an investigating committee, cook one of the meals, do the audit, or even – gasp – try something new. If you have an idea, present it to the Lodge. The best way to do that is start with a sentence like, “I’d like your permission to organize a . . . ,” rather than, “Worshipful Master, you should organize a . . .” I don’t think I need to explain why.
Masters and Officers, as spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world, let it also show what you can do with a sleepy and stagnant Lodge. Stir it up. Shake the snow off of its branches and work to make it bloom into something that both brightens the community and feeds the souls of its members at the same time. Most of all, work so that years from now, when the members look at your picture on the wall of Past Masters, they think, “You know, that was a great year for our Lodge.”
So mote it be.