Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Going the Extra Mile - or 26.2

This address was given on May 10, 2011 at my Official Visit to Valley Lodge No. 613.  Rather than edit the text and tense, I chose to leave the address as it was delivered that evening.

Going the Extra Mile - or 26.2

Ability is what you are capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.
--Lou Holtz

Four days, 10 hours and 30 minutes from now, I will be standing with 15,000 other people at the start line of the Pittsburgh Marathon waiting anxiously for the gun to sound, signaling the beginning of my journey through the streets and neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.  Measured purely in distance, it is 26 miles and 385 yards of running.  Measured in preparation, it is 500 miles through snow, rain, wind, heat and whatever else nature cares to throw my way on any given day, it is sheets of Moleskin to ease blisters, 40 hours of last minute physical therapy for a knee that hates me a little bit for what I’m asking it to do, it is the mental preparation necessary to suffer and push through the last miles when every fiber of your body is begging you to quit.  I know that many of you have heard me talk ad nauseum about this and you may all be thankful when I move on to a new subject.  Marathon running is not necessarily for everyone, but there are lessons we can all learn from what it takes to train and complete one.
I noticed something interesting as I was training for this race.  When I took my first fifteen mile run, the last mile was difficult.  When I took my eighteen mile run, mile fifteen was easy, but again the last mile was difficult.  Same with my twenty mile run – eighteen was not difficult, but the last mile was miserable.  Now, I cannot say that in the seven days between each of those runs, I got in markedly better shape.  So why is it that the last mile of the run, regardless of the length, is such a struggle?  Why is going the extra mile – or in this case, the last mile – so daunting?
T. Alan Armstrong said, “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it,” and whether we are talking about running a marathon, running a Lodge or making yourself into the best man and Mason you can be, that is true.
Each of you sitting here has inherited a great treasure – that of the name Freemason.  Each of you then, is required to do something to be worthy of that name.  Not everyone is called to be a Lodge Officer, or a Ritualist, and it is not necessary for each of us to play every role in the Lodge for it to be successful.  Your role may be Ambassador.  You may attend regularly, or even not-so-regularly, but you wear your lapel pin with pride and you act like a Mason wherever you go so that the world knows we are good because YOU are good.  A commitment to practicing the tenets of Freemasonry makes them a natural part of you.  You must always go the extra mile to live and act in a way that preserves our reputation as a fraternity of fine and upstanding men.  If your calling within the Craft is to be an Officer, you must prepare for it by learning your work, choosing men to support you, scheduling exciting programs and giving the men who you lead a reason to want to come to Lodge.  The extra mile you must run is committing the time necessary to lay the groundwork for a year as Worshipful Master.  Just like the physical conditioning a runner must have, preparing in advance helps make success achievable.
If you feel called to be a Ritualist – and let us make no mistake – this Lodge, and most Lodges could use more Ritualists – you must not look at it as a daunting and unreachable task, but one that can be prepared for properly over time.  It may seem as daunting to you as the task that is before me on Sunday, but with hard work, determination and practice, nearly every one of you that wants to learn to confer our degrees certainly can.
So what is the reward for going the extra mile?  What can proper planning and execution do for seemingly impossible tasks?
Right Worshipful Grand Master, Thomas K. Sturgeon, came into office having seen fifty consecutive years of decline in membership.  He recognized the critical importance of reversing that trend.  He stood at a starting line nearly 18 months ago and had an imposing task ahead of him, but when the gun sounded, he fixed his mind on a goal and did not stop fighting until it had been reached.  Last year our membership grew.  Was it a massive expansion?  No.  But compared to the usual loss of approximately 3,000, a net gain of 450 was phenomenal.  It did not happen on its own.  It was the result of years and months and hours of preparation and of all of us going the extra mile to see his vision achieved.
This year we will again be holding a One Day Journey.  If you have a son or grandson, father or grandfather, nephew, uncle, neighbor or coworker that you believe would be a good Mason, ask him to join.  Tell him you think enough of him to have invited him to be a part of the greatest Fraternity in the history of the world.
I know you have all been asked to do a lot.  You were asked by the Grand Master last year to raise funds for the Masonic Villages.  I have asked you to raise at least $2,000 for the Masonic Youth.  I am happy to report that my Marathon for Masonic Youth is on its way to raising at least that much.  As of this afternoon, I have had $1798.79 contributed by individuals, Masons and non Masons who recognize the important mission of the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation as well as the good work of Pitcairn Rainbow Assembly and Lincoln Chapter, Order of DeMolay.  My work is not finished, I feel like I can exceed the original goal.  I would love to be able to say to myself as I run that every mile I run will earn $100 for the Youth.  That means we need to work a little harder.  You can help me by donating tonight – I accept both cash and checks – or you can visit the District Web Page and connect to the secure Paypal site and donate that way.  I ask you all to be benevolent as we are taught here in the Craft.  Help me go the extra mile – or extra 26 miles, 385 yards to build and grow our youth groups.  If our finish line as Masons is making a better world for all, then the youth is where we must start.  Editor's Note: The goal set that evening was, to say the least, exceeded.  As I lined up at the start line, I knew that each mile I ran would bring over $267 to our Masonic Youth!  I am, to this very minute, humbled by the outpouring of generosity by my friends and Brothers.  Thank you all.
It has been said that every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up and it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up, it knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.  It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle, just that when the sun comes up you'd better be running.
Your personal goal may be to run a marathon, run a Lodge or improve yourself and the world in which you live.  Whatever race you find yourself in, run it.

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