On March 8th, I made my Official Visit to Penn Brotherhood Lodge No. 635. The Worshipful Master, Brother Art Lindsay, and all the officers were in fine form. We awarded four 50 Year Service Pins and it was great to hear those men speak about what Freemasonry has done for their lives. My address is below.
Honor and Recognition
"MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS."
- SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON
What you just read was an advertisement that was supposedly run in a London newspaper by Brother Sir Ernest Shackleton. It may just be a legend, as there is no extant copy of the ad, but as the legend goes, according to Shackleton, “It seemed all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany me, the response was so overwhelming.”
Why do you suppose that an advertisement that details such certain agony would engender such a response from the readers? What is it about honor and recognition that motivates men to take such risks? Are there lessons that we as Freemasons can take from that and apply to our Lodges and our lives?
As a culture today, we have by and large embraced the easy life. There are few people who would read Shackleton’s advertisement and be motivated to apply for the job. After all, there is no mention of health benefits, vacation, sick time or a 401k. Why on earth would we be interested? That mentality has also seeped into our Lodges. Why should I pay higher dues? What benefit do I get out of holding a fundraiser for the Masonic Villages? How will working on a community service project help me?
I cannot stand before you and tell you that doing any of those things will be of direct benefit to you. You may reap the ancillary benefits of improving your community or supporting Masonic Charities at some point in your life, but I would be lying if I told you that there would be an immediate and recognizable benefit to you personally for doing it.
I will tell you, however, that the satisfaction you will have from working hard to ease the path for others will be great.
Last year when I addressed this Lodge, I told the story of a king who placed a large boulder in the road to see who would move it. All the able-bodied men walked by it, thinking themselves above the task. A small boy finally moved it fearing that someone would be injured by it. Under it, he found a bag of gold. I told this story in hopes of inspiring you to action – to making you understand that clearing the path for others makes our passage easier as well. Were some of the Lodges inspired to action? Yes. Was yours? I’ll allow you to decide that for yourself. If your answer is no, then it is incumbent upon you to make it happen. Do not look at the man to your left or to your right and assume that it is he who should lead the charge. If you elected officers are not doing it, volunteer to do it for them. And I am speaking now of all the programs of the Renaissance – Open Houses, Community Service, Membership Growth, Suspensions and everything else that we have been striving to change in the last fourteen months.
I spoke to you recently about the importance of not resting on our laurels. I mentioned that I expected the Lodges in this District to continue raising funds for Masonic Charities because doing that is the right thing to do. I am challenging Penn-Brotherhood Lodge and all the Lodges of the 54th District to hold fundraisers this year both for the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation - at least $2,000 to this most deserving charity. I expect you to band together and do what it takes to make the contributions that you should to the youth groups that we all support. Why should you do this? Why should the members of this Lodge come together, give up one or more Saturdays to raise funds for the kids or the elderly? Because you are Freemasons and if you are true to your calling, you know that being charitable is the right thing to do.
Saying we are charitable and being charitable are two very different things. Being a Freemason, and yet sitting on your hands and or wallets when called to action are to me irreconcilable. When a need exists within our Fraternity or without, we must unhesitatingly jum p up and be the first to try and meet it. We must put aside concerns for our own lost time, or expended energy and do what we know is right.
I am calling on our leaders – those of you who hold, or aspire to hold, elected offices in your Lodges to do what you are called to do. Lead your Lodges. Find causes that you believe in, rally support, make the plans and take the steps necessary to make your events successful.
Rallying support may mean more than putting an announcement in your Lodge bulletin that you want help. It may mean picking up the phone and personally contacting your members to solicit their help.
The wages will be small for each of you who participates, but you will not have to deal with bitter cold, months of complete darkness or constant danger. The honor and recognition will be the self-satisfaction of a job well done.
I mentioned at my first Visitation that I will not ask you to do something that I am not willing to do as well. I will not stand here and pay lip service to the idea of working hard for our charities without doing it myself. I am running the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15th and am hoping to raise $2,000 through pledges of support from friends, family and my Brothers (my ever so generous Brothers) to donate to the DeMolay and Rainbow groups in the 54th District as well as to the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation. There is a link on the District Website where you can make secure online donations through PayPal using a credit card, debit card or your PayPal account.
I encourage you – nay, I beg you – to give any amount that you feel comfortable donating, knowing that it both supports the youth of our area and forces me to suffer through 26 agonizing miles of running through the streets of Pittsburgh for the cause.
Brethren, I know it seems at times that Freemasonry may ask a lot of you, but to be worthy of the reward you must answer the call. You must view your membership in the greatest Fraternity in the world as the “honor and recognition” that Shackleton spoke of and therefore be willing to endure – metaphorically speaking – small wages, months in complete darkness and constant danger.
I ask you, members of Penn Brotherhood Lodge as well as all of you here to become engaged in the future of your Lodge and of your Fraternity. You will be better men for it.