Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Passion for Compassion

Tonight I made my first ever Official Visit to Infinty Lodge No. 546.  The Master and Officers were extremely well prepared and showed every kindness to many of us who were first time visitors. 

I presented 50 Service Emblems to four of the members.  One travelled from South Carolina and another from Detroit to receive their awards.  I asked if it was just a fortunate coincidence that they were in town at this time assuming that perhaps a wedding or family event found them fortuitously in the area.  They both replied that they made this trip specifically to receive the Award in their Lodge surrounded by people they know and love.  That speaks so much for the bonds forged in our great Fraternity.  What a glorious evening.

I had the privilege of offering the following to the assembled Brethren

A Passion for Compassion

. . . May I reach
That purest heaven, -- be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense!
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world. – George Eliot

There was once a small girl who lived in on the outskirts of a mountain village with just her mother and a servant. There had been a drought in the land and everyone and everything around was suffering. The girl’s mother was so weak and thirsty that the girl decided on her own to set off into the land and search for some water. She took the little tin dipper from the shelf and walked for hours until she found a tiny spring in the mountains that had just a small amount of water trickling out. The girl patiently held the dipper until she had what she thought was enough water for her sick mother, then she began to make her way back home.

On the way she met up with a little dog. The dog looked so weak to her. He licked her hand and his dry tongue made her take pity. She said to him, “I can only spare a few drops, for my mother is very sick, but you too could benefit from a little water.”

She poured some water into her hand and the dog quickly lapped it up, barked as if to say “Thank you,” and went on his way. The girl looked at the dipper in her hand and realized that the little tin dipper was now made of silver and it was just as full as it had been before.

She continued on her way, hurrying now because it was almost dark. The road was very long and she was so far from home. She was moving so quickly that she began to crave the water herself. “I can’t drink any of this. My mother needs it far more than I do,” she thought.

When she got home, she ran to her mother’s room and held out the silver dipper. Her mother said, “Please give it to our servant. She has been working tirelessly at my side since I have been sick. She needs it far more than I.”

The servant drank from the cup and handed back to the little girl. She looked at the cup in her hands and it was now a dipper of gold and still every bit as full as it was before.

Presently, there was a knock at the door. A stranger appeared before them and said, “I saw a little girl on the road earlier who generously shared her water with a sick dog and was hoping she could spare some for me.”

The mother knew the importance of helping others in need, so she told her daughter to give the dipper to the stranger, who took the cup and turned it upside down, spilling the contents onto the ground.

“From where this water seeps into the ground shall come forth a huge and generous spring that will slake your thirst and feed your land forever,” he said as he handed back the dipper, now encrusted with the most beautiful diamonds.

The family was so in awe of what had happened that they scarcely noticed that the stranger had left without another word. When they turned to thank him for his generosity he was gone, but they thought they could see a trail of diamonds flying into the night sky. Even to this day, they are there in the form of the Big Dipper to remind us of the importance of being compassionate.

What do you think of when you hear someone called compassionate? Is a millionaire compassionate when he donates one hundred dollars to a charity? In some ways, he may be. Is the same donation from a single parent working two jobs and raising children alone far more compassionate? True compassion, you see, cannot be measured simply in dollars. The little girl was willing to share all of what she had with others, not just a little. Giving a little when you have a lot is not nearly as compassionate as sharing a lot when you have a little.

Our Grand Master has asked us to share like that little girl. Through many aspects of the 21st Century Renaissance, he is asking us to give deeply of our time, our talents and our treasure to help make our communities better for everyone; to build springs that will shower our land with abundance forever.

I have talked before about acts of kindness. I encourage you to remember that others judge Masonry by the actions of the Masons. A little empathy for others – helping a stranded motorist, shoveling a driveway or, perhaps more timely in view of today’s balmy weather, cutting someone’s grass – marks you as a good man and your Fraternity as a groomer of good men.

Giving of your talents can include such community projects as renovating a playground or picnic pavilion, or helping prepare someone’s income tax. If you have a way to ease the suffering of another, is it not your duty to do so?

Giving of your time is important too. When you adopt a resident at the Masonic Villages, you will not only be brightening their lives, but I know you will enrich your own. Remember that I said last night that you are never too old to learn. Our residents have unique and interesting stories and spending time with them can be so rewarding.

Our Grand Master has asked us to give of our treasure as well. He wants us to donate fifty cents per member to the youth and hold fundraisers to donate $2,000 to the Masonic Villages. Is that a lot? I don’t know. Was it a lot to ask a thirsty little girl to share all of what she had with others? For some Lodges, each of those amounts may mean hard work, but when you set out to do grand and noble things, you quickly realize that hard work is essential to success. What can possibly be nobler than ensuring the success of our youth by building strong foundations in faith, education and charitable giving? How could we not choose to work hard to maintain our Masonic Villages for those who have gone before us?

We need to give to our charities and our communities so that wells of abundance spring up all around us. If there’s a need, we must provide. If we get tired, that means we are doing our jobs as Masons and men. Men who aren’t Masons should be envious of what we do. When they ask how you find the time to do what you do, hand them a brochure and invite them to find out for themselves.

I charge you tonight to go home, think about what you can do to make a well spring forth in your community. Long to become a source of what is good and right. Share your time, talents and treasure; share the light that is this great Fraternity with good and worthy neighbors, co-workers and family members. Be passionate about being compassionate.

Simply, “be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense!”

You needn’t wait to join the choir invisible to do it. Make it be so today!

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