Richard H. Ryder, 2018
It is three days after Christmas and naturally, like most others, I look ahead to all the possibilities of a new year and new beginnings. But I can’t help but reflect on the year about to end, and oh what a year it has been. I also reflect on what Freemasonry means to me.
The economy is strong, yet many still fall through the cracks. Unemployment is low, yet minimum wages can’t keep pace with inflation. Social media companies exchange our personal identities to enrich their bottom lines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 653 points one day and rises 1086 points the next. The federal government is closed, yet our legislators can’t reach across the aisle and agree on a timely solution.
But those aren’t the saddest of problems. Refugee children die at our border. Police officers and citizens are shot in the streets at alarming rates. Terrorist attacks have become normalized, anesthetizing our senses. Social justice issues continue to impact millions. Opioid and fentanyl misuse indiscriminately and abruptly take the lives of loved ones regardless of age or socio-economic status. Stories of sexual abuse by priests and men in power persist. People continue to kill each other over religion and territory.
Sadly, most of this is not new; it has been going on for generations. The 24-hour news cycle and the increasing capability of technology at our fingertips create opportunities for just about anyone to push their hidden agenda, sometimes with tragic consequences. As I watch the evening news each night, I thank God for the inspiring stories of human kindness ending each newscast.
To cope, each of us must find rays of hope in our own lives. Family and friends, faith and religion, meditation and yoga – all provide means to filter out the world, focus our minds, and center us. But what else do we have at our disposal to positively influence our lives? Well, Masonry of course.
When we speak with a man unfamiliar with Freemasonry, we need to convey the therapeutic benefits of our ancient organization. We must explain that once a month, in lodges all over the world, men of different backgrounds, beliefs, and persuasions gather in numbers small and large, to silence the world outside. We need to convey that Freemasonry does not replace his faith or religion; it compliments it. It does not compete with his beliefs; it expands them. It is not a waste of his time; it is a worthwhile investment of time in himself, his community, and the world. And, it is a much-needed safe haven from the madness outside the four walls of our lodge rooms.
Each time we meet, tiny ripples of hope spread within and without us. It’s an opportunity to lower our blood pressure, meditate on the tenets and lessons of Freemasonry, and connect with those who share our Masonic journey. The apolitical and areligious nature of our Fraternity fosters harmony. Our charitable nature fosters empathy. Our universality fosters a sense of community. In short, we must paint a visual and tactile image of Freemasonry so non-Masons can better understand and appreciate the rich benefits of association with likeminded men.
The real secret of Masonry is not what happens behind closed doors; it’s the lifelong gift of self-reflection, self-improvement, and the hope one receives when he takes that first step toward the East and ultimately the perfect ashlar.
Happy New Year and may the blessings of God shine upon you.