Vol. XXV No. 3 — March 1947

“To Aid and Assist”

This Bulletin is a condensation of a part of the Report of the Executive Commission of The Masonic Service Association, made to that organization at its annual meeting, February 19, 1947.

’Tis the spirit in which the gift is rich
As the gifts of the Wise Ones were,
And we are not told whose gift was gold
Or whose was the gift of myrrh.

— Cooke

Freemasonry has always made gifts of the spirit as well as gifts of gold. “I was sick and ye visited me” has ever been a gentle commendation for a kind and friendly act.

In the Association’s hospital visitation program, Freemasonry has grasped its greatest opportunity unitedly to give to the wounded and the ill serviceman gifts rich in the spirit of the Craft and to bring comfort to hundreds of thousands of veterans living the loneliest of lives in the long dull hours of convalescence and in the longer duller months which may lengthen to years of hopelessness.

During 1946 the Association visited in 89 hospitals, and the number of Hospital Centers has been, and will be increased.

The tale of a Hospital Visitor’s work has been often told. The Masonic Hospital Visitor does not merely pass through a ward and say a word of greeting; he serves the wounded and the ill in a thousand and one ways in which the patient cannot help himself, and does for him what no other organization attempts to do. The Hospital Visitor cashes checks, purchases money orders, buys whatever patients need — and their shopping wants cover everything that can be bought from wedding rings to clothing, from shoes to motor cars. The Hospital Visitor makes long distance telephone calls for bed-ridden patients, sends wires, writes letters, wraps and mails parcels, has watches repaired, brings gifts of musical instruments, cigarettes, pipes, tobacco, chewing gum, stationery, pens, pencils, knives, razors, razor blades, books, magazines, games, playing cards, mirrors, combs, toothbrushes, sewing kits, scrapbooks. He mails letters by the hundreds. He engages rooms for visiting relatives, meets them at the train with a car, takes them to their accommodations, then to the hospital. He writes to the lodges of Masons and often gives personal counsel when asked, and, in general, endeavors to be first and best friend to the helpless and the ill.

Everything The Masonic Service Association’s Hospital Visitor does, everything he gives, every service he renders, is done without cost to the patient, his lodge or his family.

M.S.A. Hospital Visitors are brethren of long experience in the work and with that not-too-common personality and make-up which insure success.

A Hospital Visitor must be old enough to command respect; young enough in heart and approach to win confidence. He must listen to “gripes” and “grouches” sympathetically, but never repeat what he hears; he must lend an understanding ear to personal troubles and problems which may be serious but frequently are petty, but all must gain his sympathy and help. He must be friendly, wear a smile that comes from the heart, and have a genuine interest in his work.

He must work under doctors and nurses, aid their labors, never hinder them; he must be able to gain the confidence of hospital authorities and be a friend to them as well as to patients. That so many Masonic Visitors have passes which transcend visiting hours, that so many of them have been given office space in hospitals, is evidence that they are successful.

Their labors have been many times commended in enthusiastic words, by hospital authorities, chaplains, the Red Cross, families and the men themselves.

Occasionally the question is asked: “Does the Masonic Hospital Visitor duplicate the service rendered in hospitals by other organizations?”

The answer is an emphatic “NO!” What the Association does is attempted by no other organization. What other groups do in mass entertainment, automobile rides, dances, musicals, etc., is valuable and worthy, but the Association attempts to bring about a close personal contact between Masonry and the individual; to make the forgotten boy who has few or no friends feel that he is not alone in a friendless world; to bring to all who need them any one of the many small comforts which seem so unimportant to one able to do his own shopping, but which are so vital to one who must spend his time in bed or in a wheeled chair; to bring Masonic greetings from lodge to brother and from brother to lodge; to do, in other words, all that the patients’ own relatives would do for them, were they visiting in the hospital.

Especially is this seen to be not a duplication of other groups’ work when it is realized that the M.S.A. Visitors are trained in the work, trained to cooperate with hospital authorities, trained to make the one right approach, and to do it consistently day after day.

That these statements are opinions held by those in high authority is shown in commendatory letters from General Omar N. Bradley, Veterans Administrator, and his Director of Special Services, General F. R. Kerr.

The labors of hospital contacts do not begin and end with the visit. Weekly reports must be made out, letters written, commissions executed, gifts brought and distributed. In some hospitals all visitors are restricted to visiting hours. In others Masonic Field Agents are welcome at any hour. A Field Agent having two or more hospitals must necessarily spend some time traveling between. All such factors enter into any comparison of the work of one visitor with another, and with the figures of this year and those of previous years.

During 1946, 493,058 visits were made by M.S.A. Hospital Visitors to hospitalized patients. Of this number 81,322 visits were made to members of the Fraternity from all U.S. grand jurisdictions; from Alaska, and 15 foreign countries: Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Canal Zone, China, England, Hawaii, India, Ireland, Manila, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Panama, and Guatemala.

No method seems satisfactory by which to calculate the relative values of visits to patients, services to guests in Centers, services to families of servicemen and women, etc. If each is given the same unit value, the total of visits in hospitals by hospital visitors (493,058) plus visits in hospitals by Masonic Center Field Agents, (41,784) plus attendance at all Centers this year prior to their closing (385,244) plus contacts made in posts (5,612) plus contacts made outside of posts (3,922) is the sum of 929,620 for the year, which figure expresses the magnitude of the work accomplished.

That work of the Association during the war in the Social Centers, and now in hospital visitation, has been approved and appreciated by Masonic leaders is shown by continued contributions from grand lodges, particular lodges, allied bodies of Masonry and individuals who support this work.

To Aid and Assist, is the title of a new motion picture, generous gift of the Masons of Hollywood, California, to the Association, to aid in raising funds for the hospital visitation program. It tells a dramatic, exciting and heart-touching story of what Masonry can do in a hospital. Few will see it with dry eyes; none without pride that Masonry found so great a to

It is difficult to translate the value of such a gift into figures. Had it been produced commercially it must have exceeded a quarter of a million dollars in cost. But it could not be produced commercially! The men and women who made it — half a hundred for every character seen on the screen — did it for the love of doing it. The actors and actresses became for the time-being the characters they portrayed with an added verve, a greater sincerity, because their services were without money and without price. What is true of actors and actresses is equally true of director, cameramen, writers, all the thousand-and-one workers who contributed to this beautiful and effective drama. General Omar N. Bradley, Veterans Administrator, and Senator Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, gave of their time, personalities and speeches in this picture.

In the “Army-Navy Masonic Service Center” supplement of The Short Talk Bulletin, the Association informs the Masonic world of events in the system, publishes letters of appreciation from soldiers, sailors, officers and hospital authorities, etc.

This publication has been of incalculable aid in furthering the hospital work. Illustrations of hospitals, personnel, parties and other events have added to the interest of the sheet, which carries also a list of hospital visitation posts.

One instance of the value of the Supplement: blind soldiers and sailors cannot use razors as well or as safely as electric razors. But these are expensive tools, too costly to buy in quantity for gifts. So the need was published in the Supplement and as a result more than nine hundred secondhand, discarded, unneeded razors were sent to the M.S.A.

Calls on Masonic Service Association headquarters are many. Where is a certain soldier or sailor? Where is one sick or wounded ? How is my son; I haven t heard from his doctor for weeks? Will you please get in touch with my son, husband, brother, sweetheart, and tell him please to write?

Sometimes appeals are made for a service impossible to render, such as to have a woman on shipboard picked up at sea in a plane and hurried back in time to see a dying mother; pleas to have someone returned from overseas out of turn because some home emergency arises; requests to have someone promoted, discharged, furloughed, relieved from discipline.

Distracted parents write for information regarding a son; wives want help to get increased allotments from their husband’s pay; a bride is in tears because her husband has gone AWOL and may be declared a deserter; new mothers need clothes for infants and have no money with which to buy; servicemen whose families are in trouble at home beg for help to pay the rent, arrange the mortgage, find the doctor, do something about the runaway child, and so on without end.

Through the resources of Masonry, grand lodges, lodges, the Red Cross, or other agencies, such help is given promptly. Total contributions received for The Masonic Service Association s work for soldiers and sailors during 1946 amounted to $356,394.23.

The total operating expense during the same period was $293,581.42.

Contributions came from the Grand Lodges of Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and from the Northern Supreme Council, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, the Imperial Council of the Shrine, the Supreme Council of the Grotto, from Grand and individual Chapters, Order of the Eastern Star, and from many other Masonic bodies, constituent lodges, and individuals.

It is a matter of pride to the Association, and doubtless is to all who know that this work is conducted as quietly as Masonry always does do its gentle part in helping others, that the help rendered to servicemen and women in hospitals has been offered alike to Mason and non-Mason, to those without as well as those within “the household of faith.”

The Masonic Service Association of North America