Vol. XVII No. 6 — June 1939

What Can I Do?

What can I do for my lodge? My lodge has done so much for me. She has given me Light, provided me with opportunities to make friends, taught me a new philosophy — would like to do something for my lodge.

So some brethren say to themselves; so every brother might well speak to himself. And none need speak in vain; for those who do not know the answers, a few are here suggested.

The first, easiest and best task which any brother may do for his lodge is to attend its communications, and come on time. A poorly attended lodge meeting is far less apt to inspire officers, visitors or members, than one in which the room is comfortably filled. He who comes to lodge gets from the meeting not only whatever he may take home with him from fellowship with others, but also the comforting inner feeling that by his mere presence he has given others something of himself.

The brother who feels that he owes a debt to his lodge may ask for committee work — and no worshipful master but will be glad to provide the opportunities. There are many committees on which brethren may serve; committees on petitions; committee on the sick; committees on examination of visitors; “glad hand” committee, if the lodge pleasantly so names its reception or visitors committee; committees on entertainment, outings, special evenings, and so on.

Not all committees offer opportunities to every brother. Unless the master is confident a brother is well instructed in his ritual, tactful, pleasant and provided with a certain amount of Masonic common sense he is not apt to put him on a committee to examine visitors. Which brings immediately to the fore, as a means of serving a lodge, a diligent study of the ritual.

A brother who knows his ritual well will not only be put on committees to examine visitors, but will be considered when a new officer is to be chosen, either by appointment or election. He may, and probably will, get a chance now and then to take part in a degree. Knowing ritual well also opens the door to that important work of instructing initiates as they pass through the degrees, and coaching those who are to confer degrees.

Whether or no a brother be appointed on the committee on the sick, he can visit those confined to their homes through illness. It is true that visiting the sick is not usually considered among the most pleasant assignments; but that is so only for him who has not tried it. It brings its own reward; the pleased surprise, the gratitude, the pleasure the visited almost invariably exhibit, are payment indeed. Every visit to the sick “sells” the Fraternity to the family of one who is under the doctor’s care, and adds to the reputation of the order in the minds of those not members.

The Golden Rule was written as much for Masons as for those who have not had the blessings of the Craft; he who visits is apt to be visited when he is in need of cheer and counsel in an illness.

And he who visits the sick helps his lodge by making her dearer in the heart of another member.

Has the lodge a Fellowcraft Team or Club? Many lodges receive the devoted services of brethren, called together at first merely to assist in the second section of the Master Mason Degree. Often this organization develops into a real adjunct to lodge life, putting on entertainments, acting as a reception committee on “big nights”, turning out for funerals and so on. He who would serve his Mother lodge can hardly make a better beginning than volunteering for this organization.

To help the lodge, be a part of it, not just an onlooker. Many matters come up in lodge for discussion print to action. Informed brethren speak on these matters. The uninformed usually keep silent. But why be uninformed? Any man with mind enough to accept the lessons of Freemasonry has plenty to form an opinion on almost any question. Many a brother with a well-formed opinion and good reasons for having it, sits silent in his seat because he is shy, or thinks “Oh, they won’t pay any attention to me!" He is wrong. The brethren want to hear, and are entitled to hear, from any brother who feels strongly on one side or another of any question. He who takes part in discussions, offers his ideas, tries to clarify a situation, is helpful. General discussion of any question is interesting to the vast majority of lodge members — questions settled out of hand by vote without discussion because every one is “too shy” are seldom well settled.

It is not given to all brethren to learn ritual or to discuss matters on the floor. But because a man is more or less tongue-tied by nature, or unable to express himself well because of lack of education or practice, by no means shuts him out of lodge activities.

Has the lodge a tiler who is bent beneath the weight of years? It is the tiler’s job to see that the room is well arranged, that aprons are ready, that the ink is in the ink well and the visitor’s pen clean, that the master’s pedestal, gavel and accessories are ready for him, that the officer’s jewels and aprons are in place and so on. Never the old tiler but will welcome a little help in getting ready, and cleaning up afterwards, and he who helps that official helps the lodge as much as if he were himself the tiler.

A case in point; in a middle western lodge sufficiently far north to meet often when the mercury is below zero, an elderly tiler told an incoming master he could not longer serve the lodge. “I’m old, and the rheumatism is in my back! I can do everything but attend to the stoves, but I can’t carry up coal or take out ashes any more — I’m sorry.”

The master put the problem before the lodge. Half a dozen younger brethren volunteered. The old tiler still has his job (which he loves — why a tiler loves to tile is one of those mysteries only tilers know!) and the brethren who carry the coal and empty the ashes have a personal interest in the lodge, simply because they are rendering a Masonic service to lodge and tiler alike.

Has a brother some special skill? Is he good at carpentry, singing, detail work, mathematics? It makes little difference what the special aptitude may be, the lodge can probably use it. A great city lodge in a central temple will have no need of the tool-skill of the carpenter, but may be more than happy to have a volunteer singer. The bookkeeper or accountant will usually find the finance committee glad of his service for a yearly audit of books of treasurer and secretary, and the small lodge with little money can usually find furniture which needs repairing, or the need of a new altar, or a glass case in which to keep mementoes of the past.

A certain lodge had its hall destroyed by fire. The building remained but the room was wrecked. When the room was rebuilt a brother who had never had a chance to use his talents for his lodge was asked if he could make some special lamp shades for the new electric lights. An artist, the brother could and did, and now this lodge has a dozen lamps about its room, shining behind glass panels on which are painted the emblems of the degrees — painted beautifully and skillfully — without money and without price save as they brought the painter the rich reward of service rendered for the love of the rendition.

The brother with a car can render his lodge a great service by using it for the lodge on lodge nights. Few lodges are so fortunate as to have no member too old, or too feeble, to come unless transportation is furnished. He who is willing to play chauffeur for some elderly brother will not only serve his lodge, but please the brother who would like to come but cannot easily do so for physical reasons.

A western lodge makes two outings regular features of its summer program. One of these is for the brethren only, the other for the members and their families. Two brethren of this lodge are jealous of a prerogative which has become theirs through many years; they attend to the refreshments. Neither brother can speak in lodge; neither has ever felt the urge for office, and, indeed, neither has the ability so to serve. But both of them know food, and both are strong and willing workers. They go to the picnic grounds early, and when the brethren, or brethren and families, arrive, there is coffee ready on an open fire, perhaps a big piece of meat barbecueing, tables are ready, knives and forks and spoons and cups and paper plates and napkins are in place, and everything prepared for the feast which is a part of the program. Small service and humble, perhaps, but great service in that it provides many with a day of ease and pleasure.

A well-known Masonic speaker was to appear at a certain lodge for a celebration. He came early and was introduced to everyone present. “I am sorry Brothers Smith, Jones, and Brown are not up here — they wanted to meet you, but they are down in the kitchen getting the oysters ready.”

The speaker insisted on going to the kitchen. There he found not only Smith, Jones and Brown, but Robinson, Green and White, all patting up oysters for frying, to feed four hundred guests! Six brethren had given up of their chance to hear the speaker and take part in the festivities upstairs, that the lodge be a good host. If the speaker was not inspired by such devotion, he failed to grasp what was set before him.

There are brethren in every lodge well equipped by nature and opportunity to render a great service, in preparing and delivering addresses. Not to all is it given to understand the art of selecting a subject, looking it up in many books, picking out the salient points and building them into a speech. But there are always a few who can. Those who can and do, serve their lodge. Those who hide their lights under bushels and let the other brother do it, never know the joy of service which is the greater in proportion to the amount of effort required to prepare.

The average brother is hungry, whether he knows it or not, for information about Masonry. Freemasonry has a story which is all romance; which has had great chapters in war and high moments in history. In the formation of this country Masonry played a tremendous part. The facts are all obtainable from books. The symbolism of Freemasonry, and the times and places from whence it came, are never ending sources of talks. Our customs and our language are both well-springs for interesting addresses. If a brother has the ability to think on his feet, let him give some thought and time to some of these ideas and electrify and please his lodge by a contribution to its mental welfare and uplift.

A gardener made it his business to see that at every meeting there was a flower in vase at the stations of master and wardens. A dealer in books undertook to present a volume dealing with Masonry to every candidate raised. A physician offered to attend any ill member of the lodge not amply able to pay his own doctor. A tobacconist gives annually ten boxes of cigars for lodge use at annual meeting and at special events. A decorator “did over” the lodge room at cost of materials. An electrician presented a lodge with a new “neon-sign” &. And so a catalog might run on for pages. There are tasks to do, materials to give, opportunities to accept, in every lodge. All that is needed is the understanding heart, the desire to serve, the inner need to pay back at least a part of the debt so many feel to the Mother lodge which gave them the right to call themselves Master Masons and looks upon them as her sons.

Service is far less a matter of what is done, than of the doing. “He also serves who only stands and waits” might have been written of many brethren on the sidelines, but “they serve the best who loveth best” was written of those devoted brethren who do not wait to be called to action, but who look for, and find, the chance to do something for someone.

In such service is rich reward. But such service is never given for the reward, but only for love.

That is why it brings “A master’s wages.”

The Masonic Service Association of North America