SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.IIIMay,1925No.5
Let each brother who hears the question answer it for himself. But let him answer it carefully and with slow thought; not hastily and carelessly.
Most brethren will make an answer somewhat as follows:
"Freemasonry has given me sweetness in my life; the sweetness of brotherhood, the feeling of one-ness with my fellows. In its shelter I have made many friends; friends I would not, to could not have made otherwise. I have taken from them that cheery smile, that helpful word, which has made the rough places in the path of life smooth; I have received from them the encouragement, the heartening, the courage, which have made the battle easier to win.
"Freemasonry has given me the Mystic Tie; the tie which no man may put into words, yet which binds the closer that it is intangible. Bonds of silk are Freemasonry's chains; yet none of steel could hold as tightly or wear as softly. In the Mystic Tie, which I am privileged to renew about the Holy Altar of my Lodge as often as I will, I find the perfume of life, the lovely colors of the love of man for man, and the gentle touch of a friendly hand, than which there is nothing softer in all existence.
"Freemasonry has given me education; it has taught me that there is a greater reward for unselfishness than for self-seeking, that there is a high wage to be earned for good work, true work, square work done for love of the labor and not love of the wage. It has given me the opportunity to know of high aim, of lofty aspiration, of patriotism, of struggle upward through the mire of discouragement with eyes fixed always on the star; it has given me an inspiration."
Many a brother can speak of what Freemasonry has done for him in terms of the practical workaday world; of the note endorsed; the fund given; the trip arranged; the sick visited; the flowers received; the loved ones comforted in grief. But for every man who has had the material help, a thousand have had the spiritual gifts of Freemasonry, and most of us, let us thank God, have not had to ask for, or receive, even the beautiful charity of brotherhood. All of this being so . . . and let him who finds it untrue arise now in his place and deny if he can that Masonry has so benefited him . . . it is but fair and honest that as true an answer be given to the, "What have I done for Masonry?"
There will be some who reply to themselves, :I have served as an officer. I have conferred degrees. I have borne the heat and burden of the day." They are the lucky ones, for they have received the more as they have given the more. But the great majority of us cannot so answer, since there are but few officers in proportion to the number of Craftsmen.
So ask again, my brother, you who have never served in an official capacity, "What have I done for the Freemasonry which has done so much for me?"
Nay, my brother, you need not be ashamed if the catalog of your services is short and small. For there must always be those who are but the background; who take without giving; who receive without effort the largess of their brethren who have learned the great lesson that to give is to receive; that to put forth is to have returned, aye, an hundred-fold.
Yet there will be many who hear the question and answer it to themselves, and are ashamed; and these will want to know:
"What can I do for Freemasonry? I would pay my debt; I would also be in the ranks of those who give, as well as receive."
Freemasonry is not a thing; it is not an organization, a system of men and officers; of lodges and Grand Lodges. The organization, the system, the men, the officers, the Grand Lodges are but the vehicle through which Freemasonry expresses itself. A man might be the sole inhabitant of a lonely land, where there was no brother, no lodge, no Grand Lodge, no dues, no Masonic Work to do and yet carry Freemasonry in his heart. And if there were two in that lonely land, Freemasonry could find away to express itself. For Freemasonry is coin of the heart, and therefore can only be paid to the heart. What you can for Freemasonry then is largely what you can do for your own and your brother's heart.
It is agreed between us that he who serves the vehicle also serves the spirit of Freemasonry; that the brother who labors on her material Temple, who serves his lodge, who acts upon committees, who provides entertainment, who tiles, sweeps, makes the fire and fills the lamps serves truly and serves well. But when all the physical labor is done there is still much to do; and, when all who may have done the toil there is still a design upon the Trestleboard. Therefore my brother, answer in terms of the heart, not of the muscles, the pocketbook, the voice or the time spent in attending lodge; "What have I done for Freemasonry?"
If all of Freemasonry was in the hearts of ten brethren; and ninety-one per cent of it was in one heart, and each of the other nine had but one percent; would the ten be happy, successful and well-paid Freemasons? They would not. But as each one of the nine rose in knowledge and in the practice of Freemasonry, he would benefit not only himself but all rest as well. And when all ten knew all and practiced all of the gentle arts of Freemasonry, surely those ten would make a happy lodge!
This homely little illustration is intended to bring home to him who hears it with the ears of his mind, the fact that Freemasonry is better, as each of us who profess it, practices it. No man may make of "Himself" a better Freemason and not benefit his brethren. So to him who asks in all humility, "I have not done much, show me how I may do more," the is answer, "First, by making yourself a better Freemason."
To be "a better Freemason" means, first of all, to know something about Freemasonry. There will be those who hear this message who know a great deal of Freemasonry. Let them answer for themselves, if they think they know enough! But the great majority of us are content to know that there is a wonderful story to be read "Sometime." Who would truly be able to do something for Freemasonry if they will make that time "Now."
Where did Freemasonry come from? How did it come to a weary world? What has been its history? What are its accomplishments? What has it done to justify itself? What are its laws, its Old Charges, its Landmarks? What did Freemasonry do in the making of this government of ours? What had Freemasonry to do with the Stars and Stripes, and the white stars in the heaven blue? What do the symbols of Freemasonry teach? Why do we have three degrees, and how did they come to be? How was the Word Lost, and will That Which Was Lost ever be found?
Answer, you who ask, "What shall I do for Freemasonry," and if you cannot, then inform yourself so that Masonry may have one more recruit who knows something of her glorious history, her purpose and her mysteries.
But it is not enough to know something of Freemasonry. Those who would really help Freemasonry must not only know it, but "Live" it. Ask yourself once more, my brother, and answer, though only you will hear it: "What do I do everyday that is Masonic; how do I use my Freemasonry in my daily life?"
For there is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of Freemasonry; the most wonderful of philosophies, the most Divine of truths, the most sublime of conceptions, the most learned of teachings which are as ineffective as a summer shower to quell a raging fire, "If They Not Be Lived!"
All of us are human, and all of us, therefore struggle against the same enemies. All of us have within us a Something to subdue as well as a Something which subdues. As Freemasons we are taught that we came here to subdue our passions and improve ourselves in Masonry; we accomplish the former only as we succeed in the latter. "Passions," my brother, does not mean merely anger or lust. The passion of selfishness, the passion of self interest, the passion of avarice, of deceit, of unneighborliness, of cruelty, of carelessness; these, as well as all the other enemies against which man's spirit struggles are to be subdued and conquered; the more easily as we bring the fighting ranks of Freemasonry's militant teachings to engage them. This is not intended as preaching, my brother; this is but a humble attempt to answer the question you are to ask yourself, as to how may you help Freemasonry. You may help her by helping yourself; by helping your family, by helping your neighbor and your friends; and all these you may do by making Freemasonry the rule and guide of your daily life just as you make the Book upon the Altar the Rule and Guide of your Faith and Life.
It is not enough merely to be honest. A Freemason's honesty is never questioned. Like the sunshine it is to be taken for granted. It is not enough to be just. Justice is a conception of man. Mercy is God, and Freemasonry teaches it. It is not enough to have friends. A good Freemason must be a better friend than he ever expects any man to do to him. For it is written, "Give, and it shall be given unto you."
There is room for Freemasonry in every business deal, in every act of every day. There is a place for Freemasonry's smile in every greeting and in every kiss. There is a chance for Freemasonry's gentle heart in every touch of hand to a child, or word spoken to the weak and helpless. There is a blessing of Freemasonry to be given to the ill and unfortunate, and a benediction of Freemasonry to be offered the sinful and the erring.
Freemasonry is the most glorious heritage; the most sublime of conceptions of the heart . . . and they ask, these brethren, what they can do for her! They can take her to their souls; they can live her in their lives, they can express her in their every act, and make of her not a cry of man's voice to Deity, but a song of his heart . . . to God!