Alright! That was a little bit of a rough week! I hope everyone is feeling well, I know that I am. This last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the Nebraska Masonic Youth Leadership Conference, otherwise known as MYLC, as a DeMolay advisor. I had a ton of fun. September was really the month for Leadership, as I also was able to present at the Nebraska Grand Lodge Leadership Conference. I am sure you were expecting a big post about the importance of leadership, and believe me, that is in the works. However, this week I wanted to share everything that we did at MYLC. I had a few kids that this was not only their first big Masonic trip, but also their first overnight stay (far) away from home, and they were a little freaked out. I know that it can be just as scary to send your kiddo off for the weekend without really knowing what it is they will be up to.
Our journey (eventually, after a turnaround for a misplaced cell phone), began with me driving a car full of teenagers at 6am. Luckily, most of them slept through the 3 hour journey across state, and didn’t wake until around the halfway point. Once we arrived, we were given matching t-shirts, and randomly assigned groups. Everyone then convened in the main ballroom, where we were introduced to the state officers for DeMolay, Rainbow, and Job’s, as well as our emcee for the weekend, Amanda Hammett (more on her later). We all then got to know each other quite well via a group photo.
Nebraska only holds their youth leadership conference every three years, and this year we easily more than doubled the attendance!
After a quick ice breaker and a run down of what our day would look like, our keynote speaker, Josh Shipp did his thing. If you ever get a chance to hear Josh speak, do it. I don’t care if you’re a teenager, a grownup, Masonic, or not, that man has a lot of really awesome things to day, and has an excellent way of saying them. I actually had one of our members turn to me and say, “This is so much better than a keynote speaker!” Josh talked about two major points as far as leadership is concerned; don’t be average, and be human. I will be writing more about what Josh had to say next week, so be on the look out for that.
After Josh was done speaking, we had a quick lunch, and then broke up into our respective groups. My group first met back up with Amanda, who talked with us about leadership and failure. She reminded us of something that I think is excellent for youth to be reminded of; everyone fails, and failure is okay, and not the end of the world. Amanda alluded to the fact that she had failed big time, but wouldn’t tell us exactly how until the next day.
Pondering had about our own failures, we headed off to the just for fun part of the day, a Frisbee show put on by Flying Houndz. I’m pretty sure this video will give you a better idea than I can:
Needless to say, it was pretty cool. Our next stop was our service project. We stopped by the local food pantry and sorted canned goods for a bit, before heading to the store to buy some more.Within our groups we broke off into smaller teams of about 5 or so. Each team had about $65 dollars to spend (remember, when you donate to Masonic youth, this is the kind of things you are funding!), and 10 items that we had to buy, the rest we could buy any non-perishable items we pleased. Of course, its more fun with a little competition, so our goal was not only to spend the most money without going over, but also to buy the most amount of items. While my team did not win (we ended up with 129 items, mostly canned goods), I will say that I am very proud of my kiddos, as they decided to vow to not spend any of it on ramen. They felt that buying ramen would be the easy way out as far as winning was concerned, and that no one really wants to eat ramen in the first place, and that the food pantry probably already had pallets of it anyway. They literally decided to sacrifice the win in order to obtain higher value foods (mostly canned veggies and muffin mixes). Can’t say no to that, and I applaud them wholeheartedly for that decision.
I had been up for about 14 hours at this point, and it was barely 6pm. I was starting to drag, but a nice dinner and my 3rd cup of coffee for the day did the trick. After dinner, we had a beautiful short presentation called the “Nebraska Family Masonic Portrait”. T tells me that they have done it in years past, but I do not think that changes the impact at all. Basically, the head officer for each Masonic organization in Nebraska, or at least someone in the Grand Line, took time out of their weekend, to come and represent their organization for the youth. Although it was short, the results were really quite stunning.
We were then given a show by a great magician (of which I ended up with no pictures of, somehow), and then it was time for the tradition for any Masonic Youth conference (leadership, or not), the dance. It was more or less just like any junior high or highschool dance you’ve ever been to, the girls acting a little boy crazy, and the boys awkwardly standing on the sidelines, not really sure they want to dance with any girls. I suppose this is where I should mention that in my state, girls out number the boys as far as Masonic youth at least 3:1, maybe even 4:1. I talked my guys into staying for 45 minutes, then they could do as they pleased, and was surprised when they agreed. Their time was up shortly after the tradition of Masonic youth dances in Nebraska (at least, I don’t think it happens anywhere else), the Dashboard Light skit. I wish I had video of this, but for some reason I decided pictures would suffice (they don’t). Somehow, at some point in time, a tradition was started where the DJ plays the song Dashboard Light, by Meatloaf. Not the most wholesome song, but I recognize a lot of the kids probably don’t “get” it. During the song, the youth act out this fairly elaborate skit that goes along with the song. I was first introduced to it at the Master’s Ball, where I got drug into doing it with T and his old DeMolay friends. Not sure how it started (I asked, apparently it started sometime in the 80’s). Anyway, the rest of the dance was filled with sweet moves, as seen below:
After some much-needed sleep, our next morning gave us Curt Tomacevicz, an Olympian on the 2 and 4 man USA bobsled team. He spoke to us about fear, and how we can keep it from running our lives and keep us from being leaders. It also resulted in this awesome selfie (excuse the shaggy hair)
After getting to hold an Olympic gold medal (!), Amanda came to speak with us again, more about failure and success. She lost everything due to a simple error, but was able to find so much more than she had in the first place through talking with youth. She was truly wonderful and very easy to approach.
There was one more point of business to attend to, shown here by our state officers:
With our send off song finished, we hugged our new friends goodbye, and loaded back up into the Expedition to head home. I had a wonderful time, and learned a good deal; not only about leadership, but also about our youth members. I know that many of them felt the same. Too bad it’s another three years until the next one!
Hopefully that helps put some of your minds at ease as far as sending your kiddos off on Masonic youth trips. As I said before, next week I will be covering more in-depth on the content of the two conferences; and a goat.