Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a Multiple Sclerosis 5k Walk-A-Thon here in Los Angeles. My family worked to raise a modest amount of money for the fight against MS and we wanted to walk to show our dedication to the cause. We walked because we cared.
The event was early with a 9am check in and a 10am start. There were a lot of free bagels, free t-shirts, and participants, a lot of participants. I thought I overhead the number as 16,000 participating in the regions events and with a column of people nearly a mile long where I stood. It felt like a big event.
Being amongst such a large group allowed me to make some mental notes and draw parallels to other aspects of my life that I find myself in the company of people of similar ideals. The event gave me pause to stop and contemplate the awesome power of Masonic Charity. That in amongst this retinue of walkers, with their team shirts and color coordinated bandanas, that to see a troop of Masonic walkers with a banner in the air to rally the team spirit of the crew and lead the fellowship of the dedicated would be a sight to behold.
But, then I started to think about how asking for charitable contributions in lodge for Non Masonic recipients is against our rules, and that the measure of Masonic charity is in the volume of monies raised to beat another lodge in how much was given to the homes fund. That the idea of Masonic Charity is the institutional brand of what that charity means… not in what worthy causes we find or believe we should levy our oratory skills to convince others. That, unless it’s an “official” charity, its not of value to elicit the help of our local lodge. And, I don’t even know how to approach the changing of the will of the lodge to even contemplate doing something like this.
It started to occur to me that Masonic Charity was a myth. That we are told to be charitable, and then guided in what works to be Charitable towards, but to leave our specific cause or need at the door so as not to offend the membership in yet another request of money.
Thinking about Masonic charity as a myth started to open up the whole field of Masonic education. Is it something we were taught or something we do because we are told to? What was Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth anyways? And, in the early morning hours of the Walk with so many others who obviously were expressing their idea of “relief”, what made my Masonic ideal any loftier than theirs? Obviously they were up, and out, and had raised a sum of money to help fight to relieve the illness of M.S. Was my conception of “Charity” any better than theirs? Was it just different?
How do we envision our aspect of Charity? I can go into the argument of our charity truly being an agape form of loving others rather than the expression (giving) of it, but we measure the giving today not the volume of how much we love. Is it fair to hold Masonic Charity up to be measured against the temple?
Is Masonic Charity a Myth?