I would like to start things a bit differently this week with a story:
A young man passed a pawnbroker’s shop. The money lender was standing in front of his shop, and the young man noted that he was wearing a large and beautiful Masonic emblem. After going on a whole block, apparently lost in thought, the young man turned back, stepped up to the pawnbroker, and addressed him: “I see you’re wearing a Masonic emblem. I’m a Freemason too. It happens that I’m desperately in need of $50 just now. I shall be able to repay it within ten days. You don’t know me; but I wonder whether the fact that you are a Freemason and that I am a Freemason is sufficient to induce you to lend me the money on my personal note.”
The pawnbroker mentally appraised the young man, who was clean-cut, neat and well-dressed. After a moments thought, he agreed to make the loan on the strength of the young man being a Freemason. Within a few days the young man repaid the loan as agreed and that ended the transaction.
About four months later the young man was in a Lodge receiving the Entered Apprentice Degree; he had not really been a Mason when he borrowed the $50. After he had been admitted for the second section of the degree, the young man looked across the Lodge room and saw the pawnbroker from whom he had borrowed the $50. His face turned crimson and he became nervous and jittery. He wondered whether he had been recognized by the pawnbroker. Apparently not, so he planned at the first opportunity to leave the Lodge room and avoid his benefactor. As soon as the Lodge was closed he moved quickly for the door, but the pawnbroker had recognized the young man, headed him off and, to the young man’s astonishment, approached him and greeted him with a smile and outstretched hand.
“Well, I see you weren’t a Freemason after all when you borrowed that $50,” the pawnbroker commented.
The blood rushed to the young man’s face as he stammered, “No, I wasn’t, but I wish you’d let me explain. I had always heard that Freemasons were charitable and ready to aid a Brother in distress. When I passed your shop that day I didn’t need that $50. I had plenty of money in my wallet, but when I saw the Masonic emblem you were wearing, I decided to find out whether the things I’d heard about Freemasonry were true. You let me have the money on the strength of my being a Freemason, so I concluded that what I had heard about Masons was true, that they are charitable, that they do aid Brethren in distress. That made such a deep impression on me that I presented my petition to this Lodge and here I am. I trust that with this explanation you will forgive me for having lied to you.”
The pawnbroker responded, “Don’t let that worry you too much. I wasn’t a Freemason when I let you have the money. I had no business wearing the Masonic emblem you saw. Another man had just borrowed some money on it, and it was so pretty that I put it on my lapel for a few minutes. I took it off the moment you left. I didn’t want anyone else borrowing money on the strength of my being a Freemason. When you asked for that $50, I remembered what I had heard about Masons, that they were honest, upright, and cared for their obligations promptly. It seemed to me that $50 wouldn’t be too much to lose to learn if what I’d heard was really true, so I lent you the money and you repaid it exactly as you said you would. That convinced me that what I’d heard about Masons was true so I presented my petition to this Lodge. I was the candidate just ahead of you.”
From the January 1977 New Mexico Freemason
There are three main guidelines that Freemasons are taught, three main ideas to strive to achieve. These are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. The two others I will be discussing in a later post; the one I would like to focus on here is relief, or charity. Masons are perhaps best known for their charity work, it is one of the few things that tends to put them in the public view. First and foremost, relief refers to helping out fellow brothers. This is discussed at more length here. This does not necessarily mean that there needs to be an emergency in order for relief to be given, just that a brother is in a tight spot, and could use some assistance. The point is, if you need help, do not hesitate to ask a brother.
The more known about type of charity when it comes to Masonry is public charity. Freemasons have a number of their own charities that assist the public, in addition to contributing to pre-established ones.
Perhaps the most well-known Masonic charity is the Shriners Hospital for Children, owned by, you guessed it, the Masonsic appendant body Shriners International. They have numerous locations all over the United States, however they only specialize in four areas: burns, cleft palate, orthopedic and spinal cord injuries. This sets it apart from the children’s hospital that you may have in your city that will see children with a large variety of issues. Focusing on only four areas allows them to have more specialists and more specialized equipment, therefore being able to provide a higher level of care for the children that see them. A major aspect of Shriner’s Hospital is that they will not turn down a family because of their inability to pay. As a member of the Shrine, you pay a $5 “hospital assessment” fee with your dues, which goes directly to the hospital. In addition to this, many Shrines will hold fundraisers for the hospital, as well as individual hospitals themselves holding fundraisers. The Shriner’s Hospital is the beneficiary of many wills as well, of both Masons and non-Masons.
Masonic-Eastern Star Homes
A quick Google search of “Masonic-Eastern Star home” will give you results for two vastly different age ranges. Both the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children, and the Masonic-Eastern Star Retirement homes are services provided by Blue Lodges and Star chapters. However, only one of these are a charity the children’s home. The concept is similar to that of the Shriner’s Hospital, no one is turned away due to their inability to pay. The children’s homes offer safe havens for children who may not otherwise be able to live at home: runaways, cases of abuse or neglect, or simply children of divorce. The homes provide them with a stable environment to grow in, and almost all of the children’s homes have on campus schooling. There is no requirement that the child be that of a mason, or related to one in any way. The homes are funded by Masons giving donations, non-Masons giving donations, and of course fundraisers. Many children that attended the homes go on to join the Craft. These homes are generally run by a board of MM or Star members. There is not one overarching organization for these homes, instead they are usually run by the jurisdiction they reside in.
A little bit different, the Rite Care clinics are the charities of the Scottish Rite. Rite Care provides speech and language therapy for children (as you might have guessed!). The idea is that while schools often provide speech and language therapies at school, a school therapist may be seeing several children in one day, and often there is simply not enough time for some kids to get the help that they need. Alternatively, some children may require more intense therapy than may be able to be provided in the school setting. Usually Rite Care clinics are associated with a local hospital, in the big O the clinic works alongside the university hospital. There are currently over 175 clinics in the United States, giving tens of thousands of children the ability to communicate with the world. Most of the funding comes from the Scottish Rite Foundation, as well as from local Scottish Rite lodges, and of course, non-Masonic donations. Again, no child is turned away because of an inability to pay.
There are numerous other Masonic affiliated charities. To give you an idea…
- Blue Lodge: CHiP program
- Job’s Daughters: HIKE (Hearing Impaired Kid’s Endowment Fund)
- Knights Templar: Knights Templar Eye Foundation
- Royal Arch: Royal Arch Research assistance Program (Supports research into auditory perception disorders in children)
- Grottos of North America: Humanitarian Foundation Dentistry for the Handicapped
- Cryptic Masons: Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation (Supports arteriosclerosis research)
- And a LOT more!
This is only in the United States of course. Over in the UK the Masonic charities are very well-organized, and are all overseen by the Grand Charity. They also have the Royal Trust for Boys and Girls, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
So, we know that Masons give charity, and who they give to, but why is it that they give to charity? Surely there is something beyond “this book said it was a good idea”. I think it is best summed up in this song: