Fidelity, Masonry and Christmas
A Story There it sat, wrapped in green paper with drawings of little candy canes, surrounded by a carefully-tied broad red ribbon. The smell of the cookies inside the package lingered in the air. The Master’s wife had baked several dozen of the Christmas treats and put them into little parcels to be delivered to the widows of members of the Lodge. The Master had driven around to drop them off, along with a card and a holiday wish from their late husband’s brothers in Masonry. But one package remained on the dining room table.
“All of the guys jumped up and volunteered at the last meeting to take these to the widows, but I’m the only one who’s been doing it,” thought the Master to himself. “I know! I’ll call around and see who can deliver the last one.”
He punched some numbers into his cell phone. The Senior Warden answered.
“Dave, it’s Rick,” said the Master cheerfully. “Mrs. Wilson’s cookies are over here and I was wondering if you could drop them off? We talked to her a few days ago and told her we’d do it tonight, and…”
“Yeah, I’d like to,” replied the Senior Warden, “but tonight’s a really bad night. You know Thursday’s my Warcraft night and I’m kicking ass.”
“Can’t you play some other night?”
“Not now. I’m the middle of this. Maybe tomorrow, if I’m not at a new level in a few hours.”
The Master thanked him and put a call in to the Junior Deacon.
“Steve, remember you said you could help deliver the widows’ Christmas presents? Mrs. Wilson’s is sitting here…”
“I’m sorry,” said the Junior Deacon. “I know I said that, but my office Christmas party is tonight and I have to go to that. The boss kind of expects it.”
“Can’t you say ‘no’ to him?”
“Well, you know he doesn’t have a high opinion of us to begin with because he wants me to work late all the time and I can’t if something with the Lodge is happening. Besides, drinks are free. Talk to you next meeting.”
The Junior Deacon hung up. Somewhat forlornly, the Master tried a few other members, all of whom had promised they would personally hand out gifts to the widows. But one was going out with some buddies that night. Another was too tired after work. Yet another said the widow lived too far out of the way for him. Still another had a concordant body meeting he wanted to go to. Finally, the Master tried the last person on his list, a Past Master of the Lodge.
“I need your help. Last meeting you said you’d help deliver the widow’s gifts. Mrs. Wilson’s is sitting here and…”
“Wilson?!” he interrupted. “Did you know her husband? He dumped on me the whole year I was in the chair. He kept giving me hell for all kinds of little things.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with his widow. It’s a Lodge tradition we go out and deliver…”
“And another thing,” butted in the Past Master. “Last meeting you came down to the altar at the wrong time. And you gave the wrong knocks to close the Lodge. Can’t you follow traditions? Don’t you pay attention at practices or know what’s in your ritual book?”
“We were talking about Mrs. Wilson…”
“Wilson. The hell with him.” With that the cell went dead.
The Master prepared to pick up the lonely little parcel when the phone rang unexpectedly in the other room. He picked up the receiver.
“My name is Mrs. Lane,” the feeble old voice at the other end quavered. “I live next door to Gladys Wilson. I thought I’d better call you. She has been taken to the hospital.”
“What!?” answered the stunned Master.
“I had invited her over for dinner tonight, but she said she couldn’t come because she was waiting for the Masons. She got a little tired while waiting and went to call someone to see if there was a problem, but she slipped on the carpet and fell. I think she had been on the floor for awhile. It looks pretty serious. I thought I’d better call you.”
“My father was a Mason a long time ago,” Mrs. Lane went on. “He didn’t talk about it much, but all I know is when I was a girl during the Depression, the Masons helped us. One Christmas we had nothing. And there was about two feet of snow. But a bunch of the Masons came over with a tree and a huge baked turkey. They put up the tree and decorated it, then we ate the turkey and they sang Christmas carols to me and my three sisters until it was bedtime. It was so wonderful. I learned then that when times are tough, you can depend on the Masons.”
“Thank you for calling me, Mrs. Lane,” said the Master.
“It’s just too bad someone didn’t get here a little earlier because this probably wouldn’t have happened,” added the old woman. “But God bless you Masons.”
“Yes, thanks again,” replied the Master, and gently hung up the phone.
And as the Master put on his jacket, and picked up the little wrapped parcel to take to the hospital in the clear, moon-lit evening, he wondered if the Masons today really were as dependable as their forefathers. Or, if the admonition of not letting “public and private avocations” interfere with Masonry had turned into nothing more than a convenient excuse.