The Charity Fund
"I've been going over the lodge records," said the Yearling Brother to the Old Past Master in the corner, "and I am plumb discouraged.
"Why, the lodge records ought not to discourage you," smiled the Old Past Master. "Seems to me we have a right nice lodge record; books all straight, money in the bank, charity fund growing, and everything."
"That's the trouble...charity fund growing," answered the Yearling Brother. "It doesn't seem to me we do enough to justify ourselves or our existence. We have one brother in the Home. We are putting one young man through school, and we are buying three widows coal and paying one girl's bills out west so she can recover from threatened tuberculosis. And that's all. And we are a great big lodge."
"Well, wait a minute," said the Old Past Master. "When you say "all" you mean all the big things. Of course, we spend some money all the time for immediate relief...
"Of course," agreed the Yearling Brother. "But it seems to me we ought to do more big things."
"Such as putting a few more brethren in the Home?" smiled the Old Past Master.
"Well, of course, we can't put a man in the Home who doesn't need or want to go there," answered the Yearling Brother.
"How about buying some coal for your family, then?"
"Me? Why, man, I am no object for charity...."
"Well, do you know any brother of this lodge, or any relative of any brother of this lodge, who needs coal?"
"Er....no, I don't. But there must be such. We ought to take care of them."
"Well, why don't you go and hunt them up!"
"How can I hunt them up?" defended the Yearling Brother. "If they don't tell me, how would I know?"
"Exactly. And if they don't tell the lodge they need coal the possibilities are they don't need it."
"Now let me clarify your mind a little. You evidently have the impression, which so many people have, that the Masonic order is founded and conducted entirely for charity, for relief and assistance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Masonry is not an organization conducted for charitable purposes. It is not a mutual benefit association. Men are not permitted to join a lodge with the idea that they can get help from it. There are several very good Orders, whose insurance and relief and benefits are the principle things to be considered. A man who wants that sort of insurance should join one of them. But Masonry is devoted to teaching, not to helping with material aid. True, we do help; for we practice, as we teach, brotherhood. But we are not an organization for that purpose."
"If you have a blood brother, you don't expect to support him. You don't expect him to regard his blood relationship as a reason why he should sponge on you. You don't expect him to be continually asking for charity. If he has hard luck, or gets sick or is down and out, you put your shoulder to his wheel and push for the two of you. So do Masonic brethren, when one of their own gets in a hard case. But Masonry can choose her brethren, which the blood brother cannot do. Consequently, we aim to take into the order only men who will be pushers and not pushees."
"You think we ought to do more than we do. I tell you we are doing all there is to do. We are an upright, self-respecting, self-supporting lot. We have a fine membership. We have picked and chosen wisely. Only a few of us have fallen by the wayside. Those few we do our whole duty by. The reason we don't do more is that there is no more do. The reason the charity fund grows is because we are wise enough to get only those members who won't need to use it."
"But," demanded the Yearling Brother. "If you carry the argument to its logical conclusion, the best lodge would be the lodge which had no indigents, and the charity fund of which would have no need for existence."
"Surely, the best lodge is the lodge with the best membership, of course. But if it has no need to use charity among its own members, there are always ways to use the funds for others. We contribute our share to the Home, for instance, whether we have a guest there or not. And we will forever, and when Brother Wells dies, we will be paying our pro rata for the brethren of other lodges, just as they now pay something towards our brother."
"The great objective of Masonry is to teach. It teaches good men to become better men. It teaches the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It teaches the need of knowledge and the need of virtue. It teaches men to circumscribe their passions. It teaches toleration and uprightness and character. Its great end is to make men better men, and thus the world a better place in which to live. If we did nothing but charity, if all its efforts and all its funds went to charity, these great ends could not be so well accomplished. Masonry is charitable and its hand is behind all the fallen brethren, but it tries to pick brethren who will not fall, knowing that the more men who stand on their own feet, the more there will be to help those who do stumble, and the better it can teach its great lessons."
"Don't get off on the wrong foot, brother. This lodge does all it should do, all it can do, all it ought to do. No real appeal for help ever went unheard within its doors. And our resources would be behind that charity fund if it needed it. But thank the Great Architect, that we don't need to do more, that enough men in this lodge have learned the lesson of life as well as of Masonry, are discriminating in the selection of brethren who will help the lodge teach, rather than those who will help it become but a refuge of those who want help."
"What I need," confessed the Yearling Brother, "is some one to talk sense to me."
"What you need," countered the Old Past Master, "is experience; and a few years in Masonry. Time will give you both."