More Light - The Banquet
By Austin R. Shifrin, 32°
A certain Rabbi Haim of Romshishok had the opportunity to visit both Heaven and Hell, guided by an angel. On his journey to Hell, he is surprised to encounter what appears to be a beautiful and sumptuous banquet. As he draws closer, he discovers that all of the souls seated at the long banquet table have splints tied to their arms so that none of them can bend at the elbow. As a result, none of them can eat, and he can hear their groans of frustration and suffering.
On his arrival in Heaven, he is even more surprised to discover the scene before him seems strikingly similar: A long banquet table, set with many delicacies, and a great many people seated at the feast, all with their arms bound with splints, unable to bring a utensil to their own mouths. But among the residents of heaven, he hears only happy and contented discourse, and as he draws nearer, he discovers the difference: the souls seated at this banquet are feeding each other.
Participating in blue lodge Masonry in Pennsylvania, or any of the appendant bodies, offers a great many opportunities for philanthropy. Calling cards and baby showers provided to military families, supported by our blue lodges; tutoring for dyslexic children sponsored by the Scottish Rite; the children’s hospitals funded by the Shriners; and the summer camps for children with Muscular Dystrophy backed by the Tall Cedars of Lebanon, all fill me with pride for the good deeds and impact we can accomplish in the world around us.
I am always impressed and humbled by the accomplishments of our Valley Hospitaler as well when I think of the countless hours and countless miles put in by Brother Vito Urso (and Brother Sammy Knappenberger before him). They have traveled far and wide, installing stairlifts and providing beds and other hospital equipment to our brothers in need, and have set an amazing example for any brother to look up to and emulate. They are the true embodiment of the vision that we should “strive to be a fraternity that fulfills our Masonic obligation to care for our members.”
Amid all of this naches, I will admit there is a fact that still troubles me—how often we do not know that there are worthy brothers in need, out there suffering in silence. Maybe you too have experienced one of those embarrassing moments in your lodge, a sudden revelation that someone who had not been seen or heard from in some time has encountered some hardship—or worse yet, has passed on—without their brethren being aware of the circumstances.
I think the way to address this is twofold. One aspect is doing what we can to maintain or improve the communication between our Masonic bodies and our membership. You may be approached by an officer, asking you to help by calling up a few brothers now and then just to stay in touch; or the call may come in a more general form, from an officer standing up in the body of a meeting looking for volunteers. Don’t take one step backward like one of the weaselly characters from F Troop. Step forward proudly like one of the heroes of the Bible and say, “Here I am!”
The other aspect is, I think we need to get beyond the stigma that surrounds asking for help when we need it. We know that men are stereotypically bad at this: Whether because we have a fixation on our role as “providers”; or because we feel obliged to be (or appear) tough; or because we don’t want to be objects of pity. I must argue that we should have more faith in our brothers than to assume they will think any less of us for circumstances beyond our control. In fact, even if we have arrived at these events due to our own flaws, a good brother is not going to scorn you—a good brother is going to remember that he is just as flawed as you are. Give him a chance to prove himself a good and faithful servant.
As we move throughout our lives, then, let us always be prepared to give care. And, maybe more than we have been, let us be open and ready to receive care. And by this accumulation of our good deeds, big and small, let us make this world a fit dwelling place for the Grand Architect of the Universe by making it a brighter, happier, and more caring place for everyone else.