From Damien of Lodge Devotion
Marketing and Brand Gurus often talk about the “story” or “message” behind the brands they promote. Nikes “Just do it” and even our own “Our Principles make a difference” are phrases supporting brands which convey meaning about the organization – internally and externally. They can be very powerful. Images like the Salvation Army uniform and logo evoke stories of providing for people and supporting those in need. Rarely is a dollar amount received mentioned in these stories, but how assistance changed the lives of the recipients. For many, the Square and Compass also evokes powerful memories or stories of Freemasons acting to help those in need.
I recently met a tradesperson at the Collingwood Masonic Centre. He serviced some of our plant and we got chatting. In passing he said he normally gives Churches & Masonic Centres a discount because of “the good work they do”. Interesting. He was reminiscing about where he received his training and his life - Lodge rooms seem powerful spaces where people (should) become thoughtful. He told candidly told me of his childhood. The exact story makes for better telling, but conscious of his privacy and his story’s uniqueness, I have omitted the odd detail to make sure his identity stays safe.
Just after WW2, when this man was a boy, his family were farmers in the UK growing a specialized crop in greenhouses, quite unique for the time. They were able to beat other local producers and imports because of their greenhouse arrangement, but like much farming, it was capital intensive and the family’s fortunes often rested on the next crop. They would harvest and their produce would arrive in London via overnight train, fresher and better than the imports from warmer climates that they were competing with, and months before the local weather allowed a normal harvest.
His father suddenly died in tragic circumstances. Devastated, his mother, brother and sisters then had no way of harvesting their crop and the family seemed destined for bankruptcy and homelessness. As the crop ripened, scores of children arrived to help them pick it. Many then purchased their produce and his family were able to continue. The crux of the story was this effort had been organized by the local Freemasons. It was the children of Freemasons helping and Freemasons wages which purchased the crop. His father had not been a member of a lodge, our Brothers of the past simply saw a family in need and helped them, exercising “that virtue which may justly be dominated as the distinguishing characteristic of a freemason’s heart; I mean charity”
The man was probably around 70. I wondered how many times he had told the story. I wonder how many times listeners to it had been impressed by those Freemasons. Once a year? That’s 60 times. Then there was his siblings and mothers tellings. And I realized this one act had created a story of Freemasons thoughtfulness and benevolence for many decades to an audience of hundreds of people.
We often hear stories like this. One of my favourites is how after Ash Wednesday, a group of men were building houses for those that the fires rendered homeless. Channel 9 arrived with cameras and all these men promptly disappeared. An amazed bystander asked where they had gone, to which someone replied that they were Freemasons, here to help not for publicity. The questioner is now a Past Master.
I wonder if members of the Marysville District Football Club tell people the Freemasons helped them with materials to rebuild their club after Black Saturday. I wonder if the student Devotion recently purchased a laptop for will tell how he was helped by the Freemasons while at school or if the local kids at Collingwood will reminisce about some function they had at Gipps St as our guests.
These stories have the potential to endure for years, but most will only last as long as those affected are alive. That’s social capital. Our opportunity to drawn and build on it will not last forever. We need to add to that capital.
What story of Freemasons helping others will you create to be carried on by future generations?
Often, it only takes a moment of kindness and the smallest effort, sometimes a lot more, but without these continued efforts of generous Freemasons, the standing they give us in our communities will not endure as a living history, but a warm anachronism of the past.