Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Odd Fellowship is envisioned as a big tent. So long as one is a person of good moral character, with the qualities inherent in friendship, love and truth – other things are supposed to be irrelevant such as the person’s religious or philosophical beliefs, their business, their politics, their race, national origin, gender, sexual identity, disability, or socioeconomic status. Here’s an article written by one of the founders of DMC, Past Grand Master Rick Boyles, which deals with the interesting issue of socioeconomic status and Odd Fellowship.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Money is the Root of… Both Good & Evil…
Money is the root of all evil, or so the saying goes. Right wing icon Ayn Rand altered the expression with her famous words – “Money is the Root of all good”. As is my normal vantage point, I believe both views are appropriate – because conversely those with money may be imbued with goodness, and those without money may be consumed by evil and hatred. So then, it shows that money is nothing but a tool, a symbol, a token of one’s monetary worth solely. But, in reality, money is nothing more than the current rate of exchange otherwise we might all still be engaged in barter, as in earlier times.
Our order if it works as it was originally intended is supposed to be blind to such matters, and yet, it’s a hard thing to do. We have Odd Fellow events that cost hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars, and we seem to judge Odd Fellow members based upon their level of attendance to such events. When I was Grand Master, members would confide in me that they could not afford to attend an event or purchase some part of a uniform or go to some other expense. I could feel their embarrassment, and somehow I felt the need to allay this type of feeling. To be precise, no member is required to attend any Odd Fellow event they don’t want to attend. It’s easily demonstrated that many members never venture outside their own lodges. Central events, such as Grand Lodge Sessions, are really only attended by a very small fraction of our order. In our state, only approximately 5% of all members attend our annual sessions. Of course, expense is not the only reason for this, as many members still have jobs or other commitments which interfere with such an event that may consume up to a week of a member’s precious time off. The fact that some members can afford to give of their time or their money to attend such events says nothing more than that and is not a reflection on those who can’t attend. And yet, I can easily detect a bit of regret or even resentment by those who are unable to attend.
I believe that one of the secrets to the Odd Fellows future survival is to make events more accessible, fiscally and in matters of convenience. How can we do this? It’s no secret that many lodges pay for their members to attend sessions, but what about those who have jobs or other commitments, or belong to lodges that can’t support their members? As we become more technologically advanced, we need to make our events more inclusive. We have members such as Grand Warden Mel Astrahan who commit events to film, which is one step; it may be just a minor additional step to make these events interactive, just as our Board of Directors often have had members attend via Skype. If we want to advance into a new age, we have to recognize that eventually there will not necessarily be many centralized events but rather many opportunities for many more members to attend via remote access.
Some of us within our order have taken to judging members mainly on their level of wealth, though how we even know this is hard to fathom. Some of us look at an automobile and judge the driver to be poor if it has years on it, yet some of the wealthiest people I know either have no cars or drive an older one. In the real world many public figures have declared bankruptcy while driving fancy cars, and living the so-called high life. Others look at residences as emblems of self-worth, and while they may indeed be impressive, they are also no real measure of self worth. To me, what is most important is what will you think on when you are on your own deathbed, your extravagant home, or your personal relationships? It seems to be no contest. In fact, money generally tends to dilute one’s view of what is most important in life which is genuine human interaction. Money can be a wonderful tool but if one uses it to merely construct one’s own Xanadu (to paraphrase Coleridge), then it is merely a construct to isolation. Of course, there are many classic works, both books and movies that bear this out.
This is not my own extremist view, but rather the prevalent view in almost all religions. This also explains the downfall of many lodge settings, the fraternal basis upon which most benevolent groups are based. Many Odd Fellow lodges were mainstays to members’ existence years ago, but now they are only casual destinations, with little or no import to the members. In fact, a survey 100 years ago to your members would have emphasized the necessity of the lodges, while today that necessity has pretty much vanished entirely. While some wealthy may act like they don’t even see the rationale for a poor member to join a lodge, the poor or hungry member may see the lodge as some small bit of possible joy, some shred of dignity in an otherwise hobbled existence, what 100 years ago was a home away for most members from their dire state of life. Clearly, we can’t sustain members in their daily lives, but if we are announcing that only rich people are welcome, only wealthy people can run for positions, only retired people with little or no life remaining should feel the need to join than surely our order is doomed. We can’t expect our order to survive by just pandering to the rich, which is actually anathema to our original ideals. This is not negative thinking. It is negative thinking directly at those who want nothing more than to command the universe by virtue of owning it. Of course, this never happens and is its own form of self delusion.
Think on what you might consider if you were actually on your own deathbed. It will inevitably happen. I have been at people’s sides when they have had a philosophical reawakening when it was far beyond too late. There is little or no doubt the thing that you would not recall would be money. Rather, it would be the friends you may have been blessed with, and the good times you may have had. In this era where money seems a weapon, and little else, if we truly want to save our order we need to look at those who are perhaps less fortunate and see the world through their eyes. For those of you who profess to be religious – Jesus Christ says “‘Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. Rich people tend to define this statement as being mythical to those times. Other religions have similar passages. For those of you who profess to be great definers of our order – The IRS says “To be exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRC), a fraternal beneficiary society, order, or association must meet the following requirements: … It must provide for the payment of life, sick, accident or other benefits to the members of such society, order, or association or their dependents. Mar 23, 2016.” Rich people like to re-define this statement by disputing whether or not we are even fraternal. Of course, if we no longer feel like helping our fellow man we are clearly not being fraternal in its core definition.
So we have lost Odd Fellow members and continue to lose members because many of us have forgotten or neglected to remember the basic parameters of our order. If we allow only those with money to run for office, we ignore the reality around us. If we allow only those with money to be members, we are ignorant of the tent cities that surround us. Just as we now almost all logically decry prejudice of race, sexual orientation, and moral precept, we must also accept the lowly as well as the wealthy among us. If we don’t we are really only hastening our own demise. I often ask Odd Fellow members what happens to our order when they leave the order, and they invariably respond – who cares? If we truly love our fraternal and benevolent order, then we should care that it continues on without us.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles