What we Masons do

Published 3:26 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

“I see you wear a Masons ring” I hear from time to time. “What do you guys actually do?”
As the American Dream was born on the fields of Lexington and Concord, it was the Mason Paul Revere who rode through the city squares, warning of approaching danger. It was the Mason de Lafayette who trained the colonists to fight. It was the Mason John Hancock who signed his name to the Declaration of Independence first, and large enough that the king could read without glasses. It was the Mason George Washington who lead the Army during the war, and the people after. The entire history of our nation is as replete with Masonic figures and leaders, from Picketts Charge at Gettysburg to Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill, from the beaches of Normandy to the men on the moon.
But, why? Is Freemasonry a special and secret inheritance that comes with power and prestige? Do Masons know some secret way into the ranks of history? Or, is it possible that those who possess certain inclinations, like integrity, honor, and love of thy neighbor that most who attain position need, find in Freemasonry like minded men to expand those qualities? Perhaps even not having those inclinations, are simply taught them by the Fraternity? But, even if all of that were true, what exactly do Masons do?
“And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” 1 Corinthians 13:13. One of the chief tenets of Freemasonry is charity, and we are at the core the world’s oldest and largest philanthropic organization. The Fraternity dates its origin back to the medieval stonemason guilds, like a modern union, where each member was required to meet certain obligations. One of those obligations was charity, first toward each other in times of need, and then toward their community. That tradition is honored in modern times by the work we do everyday. What the public sees is lodges and rings and men dressed up like sultans in parades or in funny hats selling papers on the roadside. But, those funny looking fellows are Shriners, who sell papers and dress for parades to help fund the Shriners Children’s Hospitals, one of which recently opened in Johnson City. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite masons likewise collects funds for Scottish Rite Hospitals for children. Neither hospitals charge for their services. The York Rite of Freemasonry is a leading contributor to medical research in a number of fields including vision and hearing. In some states, the Grand Lodge oversees large homes for orphans, benevolent funds for widows, and education scholarships. As a whole, Masons in the United States give away about $3 million a day to charitable causes, 70 percent of which is directed for the benefit of the general public. There are museums and monuments and homes for the elderly or disabled. We even have libraries.
But these buildings and benevolences are not Freemasonry’s greatest achievements. It is not the change we make in the world that is our greatest doing. It is the changes we make in ourselves, in each other, that we take most seriously. All are accepted, within reason, without regard for position, prestige, politics, or wealth. Once admitted, the common causes of disagreement and disharmony are not allowed in the Lodge. Masonic conversation specifically and intentionally excludes politics and religion. We do not have ranks or levels. Because of this, the divisiveness of the outside world does not permeate our endeavors, and Masons tend to spend time and energy on improvement. We try to improve the world with charity, and each other with brotherhood. A Mason can always count on another for unvarnished advice, compassionate counsel, and objective opinion. We expect of each other to be righted when wrong, raised when low, and even lowered when raised. It is no small comfort, or consideration, to know that no matter where we may go, we are not ever alone. In that condition, a man reaches higher than he could have alone, in vocation, charity, and relationships and is therefore better equipped for those labors.
So, what do Masons do? “To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Freemasons, who are linked together by an insolvable chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their trouble minds, is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish connections.” — William Preston. So, we give. We give of ourselves and our lives to each other, of our purse and our time to the world, and of our hearts and minds to time immemorial. Among the many named and unnamed benevolences and beneficiaries of our Fraternity, charity is at the core. We improve ourselves by giving, and we give to improve the world.

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