Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
A regular contributor to the DMC Newsletter series, since its founding in 2010, is PGM Rick Boyles. Rick, in fact, is one of the three founders and originators of DMC. His articles always inspire some introspection and dialogue.
It seems to me that our fraternity has reached a crossroads. Every member of our Order, and every Lodge in our Order, is standing at the point of that crossroads. And every single member and every single Lodge needs to make an existential choice. One road continues on the path of doing what we have been doing for the past two generations, and surely leads to continued diminution and eventual demise of our Order. The other road is a road of activity, outreach and purpose, and holds the potential to resurrect our Order.
I hope you enjoy Rick’s latest submission..
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Hidden in Plain Sight
It often is surprising how many of our members believe that we are a secret group. In fact, many seem to think that somehow Odd Fellows, whom are purportedly anointed Odd Fellows at birth, join just to become old Odd Fellows, with absolutely no memory nor rationale of joining. It seems almost ludicrous to see members pass out membership forms and yet offer nothing concrete to those they give the forms to. Everyone joins everything for a reason. No matter how long one has been a member that person joined for a specific reason at one time or another. If we want our order to grow, and it is readily apparent that some elderly members do not, it is imperative that we offer perspective members something tangible.
Many if not most of our lodge buildings are in the center of our towns. This is by design. Originally, these buildings served a valuable purpose in our communities. Our history is filled with prominent citizens, who helped to bury the dead, educate the orphan, and other community services. To put it bluntly we have squandered our communal purpose. Some of us keep chanting we don’t like “clubs” yet I’m always mystified by this statement. What are we, if not a club? The plain and simple truth is that the skeletal remains of our lodges are now comprised of a few, steadily diminishing people, who like our buildings, are hidden in plain sight. We talk about friendship, love, and truth, yet we are reticent to show it. We ask people to join us, yet offer nothing of substance to join. While this may seem like a depressing message, it is dependent upon each of us to be uplifting and show the value in joining.
If then, you decide, yes, our lodge wants new members ask yourselves, what can you offer? If you offer nothing, you will get nothing. And yet, there are lodges of substance, that don’t crumble when one or two of the eldest members don’t attend. There are many ideas for obtaining new members and for each of us any one of the many ideas may be correct. There is no wrong answer if it succeeds in garnering members, but members don’t join as a lark. Oftentimes I have been at a lodge that passes out membership forms like mad, yet are surprised that no one joins. Is it really that surprising? In this era of multi-layered public events, of vast media offerings, of an increasingly diverse populace, we seem to be intent upon maintaining some homogeneous flat view of reality. Some of our lodges, as well as some of our boards and committees, are peopled with bullies who try to bully their way thru their atmosphere squeezing the air out of anyone else who attends. Other lodges do the very same events they did 50-100 years ago, and yet somehow hope for new momentous turnouts. That’s not going to happen. It’s time to freshen up.
So, as daunting as it may seem, when you see a perspective member, show an interest in them, don’t just tell them about yourself. Ask them what they like to do. It may surprise you to hear that many share similar interests. Our successful lodges are full of members that have shared passions on many different levels. To put it succinctly, if we want our order to grow, we need to show those surrounding us not only our hidden Xanadu, but also the joy and value to joining. We can’t bully people into joining, people flock to happiness not despair, or desperation. Shake things up; rather than to continue to hide in plain sight, try and show some honest and happy interest in the outside world.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles