Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tenses: Using the Future to Plan for the Present

Men will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make an effort to get up. - Thoreau

There is a story that has been told about a king who ruled over a land of peace and prosperity for many years. He began to notice, much to his dismay, that the people of his kingdom had become lazy. They had enjoyed so much for so long that they had no inclination to work.

“I swear,” said the king, “that there isn’t a single person left in this entire kingdom with initiative.” So in the middle of the night, he used his horse to pull a giant stone into the middle of the main road into the village. He picked a spot in the bushes and waited to see what would happen.

At first light, a farmer approached pulling a wagon full of grain. He slowed his wagon, looked at the stone and grumbled, “This is dangerous. Someone should surely move this stone before it causes an accident.” He then maneuvered his horse and wagon onto the berm, around the stone and into town.

Next passed a soldier, his sword and medals clanging as he walked the road. He was daydreaming; thinking of his own bravery and how gallantly he had fought in the past. So caught up in his own world was he that he didn’t notice the stone and fell right over it. “How ridiculous is it that this stone is in the middle of the road. Someone should move it.” He dusted his uniform, readjusted his medals and sword and continued down the road.

All day this happened. People stopping to complain about the stone, the danger and folly of where it lay and the fact that someone ought to move it. No one ever did.

As the night began to fall, a young boy came upon the stone and stopped. He looked at it and thought of all the problems it could cause at night when no one could see it. He was tired – having worked all day on his father’s farm – but he knew that something had to be done. He worked and worked and with every ounce of energy he had, he was able to move the stone off of the road.

When he finished, he looked at the spot where the stone had lain. There was a bag lying where the stone had been. The boy was astonished when he opened the bag to find it filled with gold coins and a note that read “This gold belongs to the one who moved the stone.”

The next day, when news had spread into the village, they all came out to the road where the stone had been. The farmer, the soldier and all the others who had passed the stone by were now scraping the ground and looking all over for perhaps another bag of coins.

The king rode up to them and explained, “My friends, we will always be met with some sort of obstacles in our life. We can look at them as either obstructions or opportunities. All of you chose the former. I hope you have learned a valuable lesson today. Only through hard work will you receive reward. Laziness brings no wages but regret.” With that he rode off.
Often when we, as Masons, think about creating and executing a plan, the process goes something like this:

1. Come up with an idea.

2. Ask around the Lodge to see if it has been tried before.

3. If it hasn’t, scrap it because it’ll never work.

4. If it has, do it again, but this time charge a little more and give a little less.

Generally speaking, we look to the past to plan for the future. I think we’ve been doing it all wrong. If we want to be successful as a Fraternity, we must use the future to plan for the present. That is how we used to do it. We would fix our eyes on a future and do what was necessary to make it come to pass.

Most of the Lodges in the District have some money in the bank. That didn’t happen miraculously. It happened because those who came before us set out to create a legacy. They wanted a Lodge that would outlast them and they asked themselves “If we want a given tomorrow, how must we act today?” They knew that Lodges needed both members and money to survive. They made sure they brought new members in and they charged enough money that they could both operate their Lodges and invest in the future.

Somewhere along the way, like the kingdom you just heard about, we enjoyed so much prosperity that our thinking changed. We thought, “Someone else can bring in members?” Or often, “They can raise the dues next year if they want to.” In short, we stopped thinking about the future, choosing instead to make it someone else’s problem.

That has to end Brethren. We must no longer wait for someone else to take the stone out of the road. It is on us to shape our own tomorrows. The Grand Master has given us the ability to invite men to join our ranks. Every one of us knows a man who could benefit from our teachings. Every one of us has a duty to help his Lodge.

For the busy man, we have a One Day Journey on October 30th. He can receive all of his Degrees by the early afternoon. That, though, is only half of the journey. After that, you need to contact him and invite him back to Lodge. That is the most crucial step in his journey. Bring him to Lodge where he can meet his Brothers and learn of our wonderful history and our beautiful future.

If we want to have a bright future, we must fix our minds on that and use today to make it happen. To keep from having fewer members next year, we must bring men in now. To avoid running ourselves out of money soon, we must structure our dues and fees properly today.

Our Renaissance, literally rebirth, must be just that. A rebirth in the way we think of Freemasonry – not as a trinket that can be given cheaply to any man, but rather as a jewel only to be earned by the worthy. Does it cost a lot? It should if it is to have any value to the purchaser.

We must use our new eyes to look at our ancient Fraternity in a different way. It is our responsibility to make it succeed. It is each of our jobs to put shoulder to stone and move the obstacle from the road to a glorious future.

What will our future be? Will we use today to make tomorrow better and, like the boy in the story, earn our riches? Or will we be like the others kicking the ground at the foundation of where our glorious temples used to stand wondering where it all went wrong?

The choice is yours. And the choice is ours.

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