Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Real Working Tools

Last night's Official Visit to Bethel Lodge No. 789 was thoroughly enjoyable for me. I was not in the greatest of moods in the days leading up to the Visit (for reasons which will become obvious as you read), but I left renewed and energized by the love shared in Lodge that night. I was privileged to address the Brethren as follows:

The Real Working Tools
Last Thursday night, my wife Gail and I came home from an evening out to find that our house had been burglarized. After the initial shock had worn off, the sad process of taking inventory of the loss began. The worst was the jewelry. The engagement ring I gave my wife just shy of twenty years ago was gone. Her grandmother’s diamond ring, our class rings from high school and countless other sentimental items are probably forever lost to us. We both lamented the memories that had been taken away by people who cared little about anything but money.

Then it hit me. The memories weren’t gone at all. They were still there as vivid as ever. High school friends and graduation still exist in my mind. I still remember with complete clarity the look on Gail’s face when I gave her an engagement ring and promised her that I would love her forever. You see, gold, silver, jewels and possessions are not what matters, for they are just things. Memories, friendships and love - those are priceless possessions, and they can’t be stolen by common thieves.

As Freemasons, we spend a lot of time talking about things - plumbs, levels, squares, gavels – but inside we know that it is not those things that are important. What matters to us are the lessons they teach or the memories that they evoke. The ideals that those tools teach us – the equality of all mankind, the importance of upright conduct, virtuous behavior and unassailable integrity – those ideals are what we focus on, not the tools themselves. The tools are just visible tokens to remind us of things which we must, as Masons, feel in our hearts.

I would venture to say that each of you remembers who you learned your work from, or in many cases, who conferred and guided your degrees. Each of you probably has a story about a Brother, perhaps still here, or perhaps now at rest in that house not made with hands, who went out of his way to show you a kindness, laugh or cry with you, or extend the strong grip of help you when you were too proud to ask for it. Those things, my Brothers, are the real working tools of a Mason. What the tools teach us of values and the ability they give us to see and respond to the needs of one another, to build memories and friendships that transcend the mundane and superficial – those are the real working tools of a Mason.

The Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “There was once a man who inherited a lot of money and land, but he squandered it all too quickly. In the same way, we don’t know the value of our souls, which were given to us for nothing.”

Outside these walls, there is a world that puts value on things, but Masons know better. We know that nothing that can be purchased truly has value. We know the value of our souls freely given us by our benevolent God. We understand the importance of striving to be “the just man made perfect.”

If I lost my Past Master’s Apron and Jewel, or this Apron, it would bother me for but an instant. For what matters to me now are not the trappings of Freemasonry, but the warm and familiar handshake of a Brother I may have never met before that instant, the feeling of truly coming home each and every time I walk into a Lodge, and most of all, knowing that each of you is forever a part of my family, and that enduring bond of love cannot be taken from me by anyone.

Before you leave here tonight, I encourage you to look around and give a silent prayer of thanksgiving for your Brothers and this Fraternity – the greatest the world has ever seen. Lastly remember that when we are laid to rest, wearing the spotless white lambskin, it will not matter what we had, but it will only matter who we were.

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