Better Than I Deserve
One of the duties of the Office of District Deputy Grand Master is the presentation of 50 Year Service Emblems. I consider it the highest honor to be able to present those pins and personally thank my Masonic elders for being part of the continuum of Freemasonry.
It is also a high honor for each of us to listen as those recipients try to condense 50 years of service to the Craft into a few sentences. At last month’s Visit to Penn Brotherhood Lodge, one of the recipients described his membership in the following way:
“You know,” he started, “when people say to me, ‘How are you doing today,’ I used to tell them I was fine or great, but now I feel I’m finally old enough now to reply, ‘Better than I deserve.’”
Better than I deserve.
That struck a chord with me that night, and as I looked around the room, I could see that it did the same for many. So often we become complacent about the things around us, the people around us. We take for granted that they are there and that we have somehow earned title to them. Society speaks of entitlements. The television tells us what we need - or more accurately - what we just can’t live without.
As soon as that Brother finished speaking, I hurried for my notebook and wrote down that phrase, “better than I deserve.” The next day, I sat at the computer with the intention of writing my talk for the next night's Official Visit around that idea. The words just weren’t there yet, so I decided to tuck that away for awhile somewhere in the back of my mind. I resolved to spend a little time trying to figure out what it meant to be better than I deserved.
From a scientific standpoint, in order to determine if something was better than I deserved, I would first have to discover what it is that I truly did deserve. That prospect terrified me.
We are imperfect people. We meet as Freemasons to try and perfect ourselves, fully realizing the futility of such an effort. We come, nonetheless, and for a time strive to reach a place where we feel worthy of some of what has been given us.
If I am honest, I could be a better son, Brother, friend, loved one, teacher, student or any of the other myriad roles I play in my life. I could listen more and talk less. I could love more deeply, be more understanding, more empathetic. Less judgmental. I think we all could.
Take King David. He was not exactly the perfect man. He was a warrior, and a schemer. He murdered his friend so that he could steal his wife. In fact, he probably broke all of the Commandments. In spite of all of that, he was chosen and beloved by God.
David realized that what he had was better than he deserved, so he chose to honor God by building a Temple. The Temple was, of course, built by Solomon, his son, but it was nevertheless, David’s recognition of God’s abundant grace that was the impetus for its construction.
So what are we as the allegorical heirs to that grand edifice doing with the gift we have? Are we doing something every day in Masonry to be deserving of what this Fraternity has to offer? Young men now get reduced dues and initiation fees if they are enrolled in school. Have you asked a young man to take advantage of that? Have you volunteered in your community as a Mason? Are you going to help at your Lodge’s open house? Have you reached out to a Brother in need? Have you helped someone who needed it without waiting for them to ask? Are you an ambassador for Freemasonry in all you do? I would suspect that precious few could answer all of those questions affirmatively. I know I cannot.
Each of us is richly blessed, and whether we are each in a place in our lives to fully appreciate that or not, we need be thankful for the gifts we have been given. We must be grateful for those who love us, and love them back as deeply as our hearts allow - never holding any of it back. We must be thankful for our Brothers and supply their needs to the best of our abilities, and finally, we must cherish the gift that is Freemasonry by being good stewards. Just as I thank those who came before me for making this possible for me, I hope to one day stand before a room full of Masons much younger than me and know that I did my part to keep this Fraternity vibrant, healthy and alive for those yet to come.
I have no idea if what I have said tonight has touched any of you. I don’t know if you’ll leave here feeling inspired to action. I have not a clue if any of you feel lucky to be a Mason. What I do know, however, is that the next time someone asks me how I’m doing, I will respond with the answer. . . Better than I deserve.