Vol. XXXIII No. 2 — February 1955

One Day

The Place: any one of a dozen Veterans’ Administration large hospitals in big cities.

The Time: Now.

The Characters: first, an experienced Hospital Visitor; he is middle-aged, young enough to get the confidence of young men, old enough to command their respect; he is, of course, a Mason, often a past master. He is a consecrated worker, a humanitarian, a friendly, cooperative, helpful brother. He is affectionately called “Pop” by the patients in the hospital he serves.

The second is Mr. Mason; he has just been employed by The Masonic Service Association and has been a week with Pop for training and indoctrination as a Hospital Visitor.

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“I’ve just been in to see Tim,” said Mr. Mason to Pop, meeting him in the hall. “He seems cheerful, but I wish you’d tell me why he keeps fingering his wedding ring. He turns it around and smooths it all the time I talk to him. . . .”

“That wedding ring is one of the small minor triumphs of Masonic Service,” answered Pop. “When Tim came here he did not care much whether he got well or died. You can call it battle fatigue, or shell shock, or nervous exhaustion, or the aftermath of having one foot blown to hell and gone on a land mine in Korea. But none of those was really his trouble.”

Pop paused. “Yes?” prompted Mr. Mason.

“It was his wife. He or she made a mistake — I never did know which one. Anyway, they were separated. And Tim was just completely crushed. Maybe she left him — maybe he left her, I dunno. You don’t pry, in cases like that. He finally broke down and told me they were separated. . . .”

“What did you do?”

"First, I wrote her; then I called her up. I told her how Tim felt; I told her he wouldn’t get well if he didn’t want to, and he didn’t, if he couldn’t have her . . . she was non-committal. But she didn’t cut me off. So I left her to think it over for a week and then I took a day off and motored to her home — it’s only two hundred miles or so. I talked to her. I didn’t ask her for anything — just told her about Tim.”

“And then?”

“I brought her back with me!” smiled Pop. “I put Tim into a wheel chair and rolled him into my office and let her come in and shut the door and I went out of there, pronto! He’s been petting that wedding ring, ever since . . . come, let’s go in the other ward.”

In Ward C their first stop was by the bedside of a newcomer. “Ed., this is Mr. Mason; he's going to help me for a while. Now you help him — what’s on your mind?”

“Morning, Mr. Mason. Pop, the only thing on my mind is this. . . .” He groped at the bedside table. “My glasses — I dropped them and now I can’t read.”

“Wonder you wouldn’t send for me!” growled Pop. “Have ’em fixed today.”

“But — I haven’t any money,” sighed Ed. “My check isn’t due for two weeks. . . .”

“Somehow, I imagine we can take care of that, too!" grinned Pop. “I will lend it to you and you can repay it when your check comes.”

“But — but I don’t know you well enough — I mean — I can’t borrow from you. . . .”

"It is Masonic money” smiled Pop. “The Masons give me a weekly fund to take care of things like this.”

“But — but I’m not a Mason!” stammered Ed.

“So what?” asked Pop. "You gotta see, haven't you? My job is to help you. Whether you belong or not — no difference. Gimme the pieces!”

The next stop was at a wheel chair. “Good morning, Jack!” began Pop. “Any letters to do today?”

Mr. Mason noted two hands, both in casts, and wondered how Jack managed a wheel chair. The rug over his knees concealed the fact that both legs were also in casts.

"I’d like just a short note to my boy,” asked the patient, “he worries too much about me. The doc says maybe I can get these hands out of casts next week and — maybe I can write again.”

“Paper and pencil in the bed table drawer,” suggested Pop to Mr. Mason.

Jack dictated; Pop wrote. Then, “Post it at once, fellow. Anything else?”

“Just to say thank you to someone; whoever you got to push me to chapel yesterday,” answered Jack. “I enjoyed the service....”

The two went across the ward to a bed in which a boy was lying with his leg in the air, under traction.

“Hello, Bud!” began Pop. “When you going to stop waving that foot around?”

“You ask the doc!” grinned the lad. “But I gotta problem, Mr. Anthony!” He was freckled and red haired and evidently Irish.


“It’s Mom!” he waved a letter in the air. “She’s coming to see me!”

“So? And that’s a problem?"

“Dammit, Pop, she’s coming today! Rich old aunt sent her a check; she’s spending it to come to see me — and how’s she going to find me? And where’s she going to stay? She’s — she’s just the best Mom in the world but — but she doesn’t know anything about travel, or this city, or how to how to get around. . . .”

“How can I reach her?” asked Pop.

“Her train, she says, arrives at 2:40. She’s coming from. . . .”

“Wait!” Pop’s notebook came out. “Now tell me. . . .”

He wrote notes in a book. “Mr. Mason, you carry on; I’ll go wire the conductor, tell her where to meet me . . . don’t YOU worry!” to Bud. “I’ll meet her, bring her here, have a room for her nearby.”

Mr. Mason used the time waiting for Pop to return to visit the lad in the next bed. On his bedside table were several books.

“May I look at your titles?” asked Mr. Mason. He picked up several “Good reading!” he commented.

"Yes” answered the patient. “Good reading. But the library doesn’t have what I want; I can’t read novels all the time. I want some language books. . . .”

Mr. Mason was new at the job but he had seen enough of Pop’s work to be pretty sure he was not overstepping. “What kind of language books?” he asked.

“Advanced French. I was in my junior year at college. When I get out of here I’m going back. I was majoring in languages and I’m weak in French.”

Mr. Mason didn’t know why he had not brought his own books and hesitated to ask. Perhaps his question showed on his face.

“Wife and kid. All my allowances are not enough. She has to work. Can’t afford books. . . .”

“I’m sure Pop can arrange it!” ventured Mr. Mason. (Pop did!)

Pop came back. “Come with me,” he instructed. “I want you to hear this. . . .” Pop guided his assistant out of the Ward, up the stairs and into a private room. Just before they entered he said “This isn’t John’s regular room. But Chaplain Henderson got him put in here for today and tomorrow. . . .”

They found John, his head and eyes a mass of bandages. One leg was outside the covers — at least Mr. Mason supposed there was a leg in that heavy cast.

“John, here I am — Pop. And my new assistant, Mr. Mason.”

Mr. Mason thought the answering smile was a happy one.

“Glad to know you — some day maybe I can see you!” answered John. “You had any word?” This was obviously addressed to Pop.

“Yes, it’s all fixed. Cake baked, candles ready, chaplain ready, license secured, Nurse Gifford is all excited at being bridesmaid — you picked a Best Man, yet?”

“It would have been Elliot,” was the answer. But he — he’s gone. You wouldn’t want to serve?”

“I’d be mighty proud!” assured Pop. “And here — here’s the ring!” He produced a small box, took from it a wedding ring and put it in the groping hands. “She’ll be here this evening — my wife will meet her; she’ll stay with us tonight!”

“I can’t — I don’t — I — I. . . .”

“Never mind, son, I know!” and Pop’s voice carried a grin. “It isn’t every day we have a hospital wedding! I’m as happy as you are!”

When they left, Mr. Mason's face was one large question.

“He’s going to be married, here, tomorrow!” smiled Pop. “Some crazy relative left him quite a wad, provided he got married by a certain date — seems he was rather a wild youngster before the war and Uncle wanted him to settle down. He got engaged before he knew of the crazy will. Then he got himself shot to hell an gone in Korea. When he learned of the will he didn’t think it would mean anything — but the girl said she was going to come and marry him now, so they’d have a stake when he got out. . . . I fixed it with the Manager, the doctors and the chaplain — and you can be an usher! We’ll have several staff members in for the ceremony.”

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

Mr. Mason and Pop sat at lunch together.

“Is it always like this?” asked Mr. Mason.

“And more so!” answered Pop. "You haven’t seen anything yet. This afternoon I’ll take you with me when I talk to Larry. He has legal troubles; seems he left his business affairs rather in a mess. I got him some good legal advice and a lawyer is coming with some papers for him to sign, this afternoon.

“Then I want you to meet Bill. I told Bill’s story to headquarters; it’s an old story now. Bill is still here — poor chap, I doubt if he ever makes it. But he’s not unhappy, and it’s because of our part in Bill’s story that he isn’t. . . .”

“What’s the story?” asked Mr. Mason.

“It was when he first came. He’s World War Two, you know. He hadn’t been here but three weeks when he called me to him one morning. He made me bend over and whispered to me. 'Shshshs!’ he said. ‘I don’t want anyone to hear . . . remember the snapshot you made of me last week down in the yard? In the wheel chair? With that new nurse from Ward Five? I sent it to my wife and now — look!’ Bill pulled out a letter, it was an indignant letter. A non-understanding, pathetic, difficult letter. Bill’s wife looked at the picture the wrong way, and was so obviously jealous and nasty that Bill was all upset. I didn’t say what I thought. Instead I promised to fix it up.”

“Can you fix it, Pop?” he asked.

"Poor Bill! He’s only a kid. I had one at home the same age. ‘Sure I can fix it,’ I told him. ‘She just doesn’t understand — after all, Bill, she hasn’t seen you for nearly a year. . . . I’ll fix it!’

“I did fix it. It cost a long distance call half way across the continent. It cost a long wait for a connection. But when I finally had Mrs. Jealous on the wire, it didn’t take long to tell her that Bill never saw the pretty nurse before nor will again; that she misunderstood, and to please forgive him (doubtless the Lord will forgive me that lie!) and so on and on, until the little woman was sold on the idea she still had a loving husband and not a nurse hunter!”

Mr. Mason sighed. “I wonder if I can catch on — I didn’t know you had things like that to do!” He sighed again.

"We have all sorts of things to do!” explained Pop. “The hard part of this work is not the long day, nor the walking, nor the tug at your heart strings. The hard part of the day is trying to find the remedies for problems you never heard of until some wounded or ill boy spills them; then you have to think fast.

“We give small gifts — but only small ones. You can’t buy your way into helping people. Cigarettes, tooth brushes, cards, games, cross word puzzles, books — even electric shavers for the one-armed when needed. But they are only the incidentals. What counts here is to be a friend: to make the man in the bed think he has someone he can depend on. You have to remember that the young men have little perspective and the older men little hope; nine out of ten can't understand why or how they seem forgotten. They are not forgotten, of course. Uncle Sam gives them the best food, the greatest medical care, the top notch in hospital treatment. But you can’t make a personal friend out of a Hospital Staff. Every man and woman on the staff, from Manager to orderly, from head nurse to scullion in the kitchen, has a job and a big job, which doesn’t leave any time or opportunity to be an individual friend to any individual patient.

“You’ll find that a patient is often in such mental condition that what he needs most, the doctor can’t supply — a friend who will make him do what he can for himself. I’ve seen discouraged one-armed boys take a new lease on life when they found they could shave themselves left-handed with an electric shaver. I’ve seen men who just did not care whether they lived or died, come out of the slough of despond as a result of a few letters from home — which I got for them. I’ve seen men come to a new determination to get well and take a place in daily living for no better reason than the inspiration they had from learning from me about what some, man, worse off than they were, did to rehabilitate himself.”

“There doesn’t seem to be anything dull about this job!” commented Mr. Mason.

“Oh, yes, there is. You’ll get tired — we all get tired of some phases of it. Weekly reports; accounting of our hundred dollar fund to headquarters; trying to keep cheerful with a few men who are just natural grouches. Occasionally — not often — we have ingratitude and graspingness to contend with. But just remember old Charles Kingsley!”

“Kingsley? Who was he?”

“I dunno. He wrote something that I keep pasted in my hat. He said ‘Do the work that’s nearest, though it’s dull at whiles; helping, when we meet them, lame dogs over stiles.’

“Not calling maimed men lame dogs, y’understand; just making a comparison. It’s the help and the stiles we have to look at, remembering that a postage stamp is three cents to you or me and maybe the life line for the boy who is too proud to say he’s broke and wants to write his mother.”

“How far can we go with this — Oh, well, call it three cent postage idea?” asked Mr. Mason.

“I’ve never had any limit placed before me,” answered Pop. “The M.S.A. gives me the opportunity and trusts me. Use your common sense. The only instructions about how far to go I’ve ever had is to act as if the man was my blood brother. Any large expenditure that seems needed I ask headquarters about. But it is not gifts or money that makes Masonic service vitally important.”

“What, in a word, does make it?” asked Mr. Mason

“You should know,” answered Pop, slowly.

“What is it?”

Pop smiled. “Love” he answered.

Question Box

The column will attempt to answer questions about Freemasonry.

What Are The Ancient Landmarks?

Various grand lodges have “adopted” various “lists of Ancient Landmarks” and thus have given the tenets in the list the force of law in those grand lodges. But no grand lodge can make or unmake a landmark, any more than the Congress of the United States can make or unmake a law of nature. Congress might pass a law saying that the law of gravitation was hereafter to be inoperative, but presumably an apple rolling from a table would still fall to the floor!

The late great Charles C. Hunt, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, put this point of view in a few words:

The Masonic conception of a Landmark is fundamental law of Masonry which no body of men or Masons can repeal. Anything that can be adopted can be repealed. If a Grand Lodge has power to adopt, it has power to repeal. It is the very fact that they are unalterable which makes the landmarks similar to scientific laws which cannot be changed or altered by any man or body of men.

It is probable that all English-speaking Grand Lodges will agree that at least seven Masonic fundamentals are landmarks.

These are:

  1. Monotheism, the sole dogma of Freemasonry.
  2. Belief in immortality, the ultimate lesson of Masonic philosophy.
  3. The Volume of the Sacred Law, an indispensable part of the furniture of a lodge.
  4. The legend of the Third Degree.
  5. Secrecy.
  6. The symbolism of the operative art.

Every Mason should ascertain what his own Grand Lodge has adopted (or not adopted) as “landmarks” and govern himself accordingly.

The Masonic Service Association of North America