The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
Bro. D. A. Bruce
Brethren, you may recall from my presentation of last evening that my main thesis, in developing the theme “Being Positive”, was to recognize our role in society and in our lodges, TO ASSIST individuals, with whom we are in contact and more particularly our brothers in Masonry to want to grow from being good people to becoming better people; from being good men to becoming better men and from being good Masons to becoming better Masons. I indicated on that occasion that there were four particular ways to achieve this objective. Let me take a few minutes this evening to look at two additional techniques.
The first one is resolution or acceptance. Let me begin with this well known phrase “Oh God grant me the strength to change the things I can; Serenity to accept the things I can’t and Wisdom to know the difference.” Seems to me, my Brethren, we have heard two of those words many times before. do they not form the fundamental principles of Freemasonry? There are things Brethren that we can change if we have the strength and the courage but there are things we cannot change. I have always believed in the philosophy that a problem without a solution is not a problem but a fact of life. Let me repeat that again, a problem without a solution is not a problem but a fact of life. We must go on to greater things and not dwell on those things that we cannot change. I think specifically of an illustration — old age. Old age is a period in time that we can do nothing whatsoever about. We can worry about it, we can think about it, we can allow it to dwell upon our minds, but we can never change it. It is a fact of life that we must learn to accept. We must have the serenity to accept that which is a fact of life. However, my Brethren, we can learn to cope with it. We can discover ways and means and solutions to cope with the process of growing old.
Brethren, I also believe very strongly in the philosophy that a person once discussed with me. “Don’t come to me with your complaints but with your solutions”. Anybody can complain, anyone can find the time to look at problems, to look at what is going wrong, to look at the negative things in life, but it takes a better person to resolve them. When you resolve a problem you feel good about yourself; you want to tell the whole world that you have been successful. This success will lead you towards being able to solve additional problems. You have in the process shown considerable growth. I always remember the short phrase “anything is possible, it only takes a little more time”. We have lots of knockers in our society, in our world, in our communities but we need more doers, more resolvers, people who will take the time, regardless of the amount of energy required to resolve a problem. As leaders and as members of one of the greatest institutions this world has ever known we can and should set an example for others. Through setting a positive example in the regularity of our own behaviour afford the best example for the conduct of others. Let us all be resolvers and accept those things that we cannot change.
Let’s take a few moments to look at another segment of this technique. It is what I call “killer phrases”. How many times have you been to a lodge meeting where someone introduces a new and perhaps novel idea; or proposes something different to what the lodge may have been accustomed. How many times have you heard phrases such as “It’s too modern”, “We’re too big for that”, “It’s been the same for 20 years so why change”, “Form a committee”, “There are better ways than that”, “It’s too early”, “It’s too hard to administer”. These are what I call “killer phrases”. They are the greatest way to destroy ideas, to make people feel insecure about themselves. It certainly chloroforms creative thinking. When an individual puts forth an idea regardless of how poor you may think it is; that person must be encouraged to feel secure about his thoughts. We must help that person to develop that idea from being a good idea to becoming a better idea. If for nothing more than to help that person to grow in self-worth and in self-esteem. The frequent use of such phrases will not in any way improve that person’s self-esteem because the next time they are in a situation where they have an idea they will remain silent. Good ideas become better ideas because people feel secure and confident that their idea will be considered and built upon. As leaders in our lodges, as chairman of various Masonic committees or in any other capacity in which we work with our Brethren we must help them to want to grow through encouragement and positive reinforcement. Let this be a challenge to all of you. The next time you are in a lodge meeting or committee it would be a very interesting exercise for each one of us to make note of the number of times (when an idea is put forth) one of these “killer phrases” is introduced. Perhaps even make note of the actual wording of the “killer phrases” so that when the meeting is concluded you or I could indicate to the rest of the group the number of times a “killer phrase” was used causing an idea which was generated by a concerned and interested brother to be thwarted. I am sure that it would surprise each one of us. Maybe the group could set a goal of decreasing the number of “killer phrases” over a period of time thus promoting positive growth among the Brethren. It is something that we all could examine carefully and grow as a result. Remember “Killer Phrases” take away self-esteem, self-worth and the desire to grow.
Let us turn for a few minutes now to my last premise which is entitled “Recognition”. Let me start again with a short poem.
“What to closed eyes are kind sayings.
What to hushed heart is deep vow.
Nothing can avail after parting.
So give them the flowers now.”
Brethren, many of you have heard those words before “give them the flowers now”.
My Brothers, nothing sounds as sweet to a person’s ear than the sound of their own name and particularly the name that they wish to be called. Let me repeat that again “nothing sounds as sweet to a person’s ear than the sound of their own name”. Let me give you an illustration which certainly reinforced this point in my mind. I recall some time ago walking into my office and was met by two little boys. Their salutation to me was “Good morning, Mr. Bruce”. My reply was “Good morning, Billie” but all of a sudden I couldn’t remember the name of the other boy. Billy’s reaction to me was, in talking to his friend, “Look I told you so, he knows me” “He knows who I am” “He calls me by my name”. He felt good, he felt secure, he had a smile on his face. You could almost see his chest expand. But how did the other boy feel? How did he react to this? How did I react to what I had done? Yes, I had made one person feel very good about themselves because by calling him by name he knew that he counted; that he was noticed;; that he was somebody. For the other boy I did the exact opposite.
I strongly believe, my Brothers, that there is a challenge for each and every one of us EACH DAY to learn another person’s name so that when we meet them we can call them by name. They will know that they count, that they are somebody. It will make them feel good about themselves and that they will return the favour to others.
The Masonic institution in my opinion, has come a long way in this area through the introduction of “name cards”. Why do each of us wear one today? It is solely for the purpose of calling a person by name. “Name cards” are wonderful things but they are what I call a crutch, like having a broken leg you eventually have to kick them aside. Over a period of time we should automatically learn a person’s name so that we do not have to rely upon a crutch. You can be assured that it will make that person feel so much better. Is that too much to ask of any of us — each day in our lives to learn one additional name. Brethren please accept that small challenge.
Brethren, how often do you take the time to commend a family member, a colleague at work, a member of your lodge for what they may have done, for their initiative, for their sparkle, for their enthusiasm? It makes them feel good, it makes them feel successful. It gives them recognition. Everybody needs recognition.
I recall a very significant situation that happened to me not very long ago. One morning I was sitting in my office and one of my staff members walked by. My simple statement to that person on that day was “My you look sharp today”. That is all I said “My you look sharp today”. Five simple words, six syllables “my you look sharp today”. The person said “thank you” and went about her way. I thought nothing more about it. At the end of the day that person came to me, sat down and said “I would like to tell you something. When I walked into work this morning I was angry. I am sure I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I was bitchy. I couldn’t see anything good about the day. I just felt miserable. When you made that one statement to me “my you look sharp today” did you realize that it changed my entire attitude towards the day. I got working with the students, felt good about it because someone had noticed me and said something to me. I had a wonderful day, I achieved many things. I accomplished more than I had ever hoped to. I wish to thank you for those five words. I was recognized. My Brethren, five simple words brought about recognition and helped a person along the way.
How many words do you use in a day? How many of those words are directed towards people to make them feel good about themselves? Is it not worth those few words to help a person along their way; to help them feel more successful and to help them want to grow. I challenge you, therefore, to take the time at least once a day to commend a lodge brother, a colleague, a person at work, a member of your family for what they have done or what you recognize good and great in them. You are making them feel better, you are doing something for them, you are making them succeed, you are making them grow in a positive direction.
Yes, my Brethren, you will get a sense of satisfaction, fulfilment and happiness when you make people happy because in so doing you are helping them to feel good about themselves and to be successful and to want to grow. You are helping them to want to grow from being good people to becoming better people, from being good men to becoming better men, from being good Masons to becoming better Masons. After all, my Brethren, is that not in essence the chief point of Free Masonry. Through being positive, endeavour to be happy ourselves and to communicate that happiness to others.
I thank you.