My Brother

My Brother
By Bro. Todd M. Paterek

This past year I got to know an older Brother quite well.  It started with a request to take him to his doctor’s appointment and back to his assisted living home.  One hour, at most.  Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I recently started working from home and thought that an hour or two out of my day for a Brother is the least I can do to help.

The “Fun” began when I picked him up.  I drive a pickup truck, like any other, is a bit higher off the ground so getting him in was a bit of an exercise, for both of us.  Right foot here, left cheek there (I cleaned up his words) and in he went.  At the Doctor’s office, it was a fumble of paperwork and insurance, I offered to help but he had everything under control.  His name was called, and I waited and waited.  I began to wonder if I would be able to get my work done or if I would have to work late to make up for the lost time.  I took some phone calls and answered a few emails and a “quick” hour later he was ready to go.  No, not home yet, he needed a couple of things at the durable equipment store.  Socks and a cane, I do not remember exactly but they did not have either of them anyway.  He was not quite done, time to go grocery shopping.  I followed him around the store as he chose the right peaches, looked for the hot cocoa he always bought and rummaged around here and there.  We held up numerous people as he struggled to maneuver his walker through the displays.  One man commented behind me under his breath “let’s move it old man”.  With a gentle voice, I turned and requested that he show some respect for the man I was starting to grow impatient with myself. This Mason, my Brother.  It was that second I realized that there was no other place in the world that I would rather be than helping my Brother with the simple tasks of life.  We finished his shopping trip, capped by confusion at the self-checkout.  We laughed together instead of me trying to hurry him along, an employee came over to help and we got her laughing too.  By this time, we were about three hours into the day, and it was lunchtime.  I suggested we get lunch he said okay but he insisted that he treated.  I told him he gets to pick the place then.  He chose Ted’s Hot Dogs (good choice).  Because of the pandemic, it was drive-through only and the line was long since they didn’t have an official drive-through.  I used the quiet time to ask him what our Lodge was like when he was my age.  He told me about parties with bands, dancing, and everyone brought their entire family.  He spoke of good times, and bad at Blazing Star.  He told me to keep pushing to get our Lodge back to the glory of those days when young men became Masons, Masons filled the seats, and all enjoyed Fellowship, Brotherhood, and the wonders of Masonry.  He encouraged me to keep trying because Masonry and our Brothers are worth the time and effort.

We finally got our foot-longs and fries, he realized he did not bring any money, Yadda, yadda, yadda, and we found an empty parking lot to eat, and relax.  We talked about this and that and mostly enjoyed the sun and each other’s company.  As we took our last bites, I asked him; “what else can we do?”.  He was hesitant but asked if we could go to his house because he had to pick up a few essential things.  Without hesitation, we were on our way.  When we got there, I could tell there was a change in his usual happy manner.  I assumed he was flooded with memories of his wife who recently passed.  He noted that his daughter moved the TV and couch.  “Things are not where they should be”, he remarked.  We talked about holidays spent there, his children, and other subjects not so important.  Then he stopped and just looked around.  With his back to me, he said, “I don’t think I’ll be coming back here anymore”.  I assured him that he will when he is stronger, and it will be sooner than he can imagine.  Reassured he gathered his important items (a tube of toothpaste, and a candy bar) and said he would like to go back to the assisted living home now.  We packed up and headed back.  The conversation was as quiet and slow as I drove.  I can only speak for myself, but I believe we both wanted to have something more to do, an excuse to not return to the “daily” of our individual lives.  Nevertheless, the day together was done.  We returned and we said our goodbyes.  I was honored that he called me another time to take him to the same doctor a month later.  It was not as much of an adventure, but we were able to share valuable time together again.  All cleared by the doctor he soon returned home with nursing care. 

I called him and talked on the phone for about 30 minutes he told me how much he wanted to get back to Lodge and to be sure to relay his “helloes” to everyone.  I told him I would pass his well-wishes, and when he is ready I will pick him up for Lodge and take him home. We said our goodbyes and agreed we would talk again soon.

A few weeks later I found out that he had passed.  I wanted to call him one more time, but I was always too busy.  I lost my opportunity, but I reminded myself that if it were not for that first “favor” I did I would not have even really known my Brother.  He touched something inside of me, something that makes me want to do better for each of you, for the men that are not yet Brothers, and hopefully for that Brother that will one day drive me around aimlessly.  The favor I did for him turned into the amazing life lesson he gave to me. Never wait, be there for your Brothers. Jump at the opportunity to help or a simple visit. I hardly knew him when I agreed that first day and now I can fully say he truly is my Brother.

My Brother receiving his 50 years of service award with his wife, the Grand Master of Masons in the State Of New York, The Deputy Grand Master, and the Master of our Lodge.

I want to know each of you in this way.  We are Brothers and that is one thing, but can you honestly say that you would shed a tear if I passed tomorrow.  Would I for you?  I am not sure. The goal is not the tears that fall after a Brother passes, the goal is the Brotherhood formed while we are together.  When the heart empties and the tears fall, we know a True Brother has left us.  It is fortunate for us left behind that we have each other.  Once again, I am reminded of our First Degree prayer Psalm 133.  We live together in Unity, we work together toward a common goal, the rewards are outstanding for everyone, and we, like those Brothers that have gone before us, will continue to live in the hearts of our Brothers forever. 

I wish we were all close Brothers.  That we would come together to work, relax, have fun, and learn.  We have this Lodge that was built by our Brothers before any of us were born.  Year after year our Brothers met here as we do each month.  However, they also came together in Fellowship and grew the bond of Brotherhood over time.  When one passed they mourned together and took comfort in each other.  When one was in need the others all helped without asking. When one celebrated, they all celebrated.  I believe we can have that here at Blazing Star again.  We have the sparks, we just need to let it burn. 

2020-2021 Blazing Star Lodge #694 Officer Line

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 – The Brothers of Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM held a special meeting to nominate, elect, and install the officers for the 2020 – 2021 Masonic year. You will notice that all are wearing simple white aprons. Due to Covid-19, we are refraining from using “shared” aprons. However, this is in fact the true fashion of a Master Mason. One is not “higher” or “lower” in importance. Nobody is more important than the next. We have our stations and places in the Lodge and these offices are to ensure the Lodge works and progresses with purpose, honor, and love. Fellowship was abundant after the meeting. A genuine feeling of Brotherhood prevailed in the parking lot with none eager to leave.

W:. Glenn S. Capron is taking the Master’s chair one more year. He begged us not to elect him again so we did the Brotherly thing and elected him. You can read W:. Caprons bio and see his line of officers in the Master’s Corner of the website. W:. Capron has promised a full Trestle Board of Masonic education, as much Fellowship as possible with current Covid-19 guidelines, and a year devoted to the members of Blazing Star Lodge and Freemasonry.

We have some candidates waiting to take their first (and second) step into Freemasonry and we will initiate (and pass) them as soon as we receive guidelines from The Grand Lodge of New York. We cannot wait to welcome our new Brothers but we want to be as safe as possible. If you are interested in becoming a Freemason please do not hesitate to “knock on our door” to learn more.

There’s mony a badge that’s unco braw,
Wi’ ribbon, lace and tape on,
Let Kings and Princes wear them a’,
Gie Me the Master’s apron!
The honest Craftsmas’s apron,
The jolly Freemason’s apron,
Bide he at home, or road afar,
Before his touch fa’s bolt an’ bar,
The gates of fortune fly ajar,
‘Gin he wears the apron!
For wealth an’ honor, pride an’ power
Are crumbling stone to base on;
Fraternity should rule the hour
And ilka worthy Mason!
Each Free Accepted Mason,
Each Ancient Crafted Mason.
Then brithers let a halesome song
Arise your friendly ranks along,
Gudewives and bairns blithely sing
Ti’ the ancient badge wi’ the apron string
That is warn by the Master Mason.

Brother Robert Burns on The Apron

Masonic Poll Results

Masonic Poll Results

By: Todd M. Paterek ~ Senior Deacon of Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM

We posted a quick survey on our Newsletter and our website asking some specific questions about your experiences in Masonry at Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM.  The results are in and I want to address a couple comments directly.  I do not want you to think that these are rebuttals, nor will I try to defend the Lodge, I will not even take a side.  I want to give my view of the comments.  I am happy the comments were posted (anonymously) because we need to know where we have to improve.  We need to talk to each other and listen to each other if we want to be successful in our Masonic journey.  For those who answered you are anonymous but I personally think it is best to voice your opinions in person.  We spend about an hour having dinner and general Fellowship before we open Lodge, we then have at least another hour after we close Lodge.  These are perfect informal times to voice your opinions, ask questions, and get involved.  If you want fell free to pull me aside and talk one on one.  I am no authority in the Lodge, none of us are, but I am one that is pushing for change so if the boat is rocking, they expect it is me.

What did you expect of Masonry before you “knocked on the door”?

I knew nothing about masonry, except I knew my dad’s friends who were masons, and that they were quality gentlemen whom I had grown up knowing and thinking highly of. I wanted to be among those type of men.

This is common in quality men seeking Masonry.  Quality men want to be gentlemen and they understand that to become better they need the influence of other quality men.  I like to think that each of us who knock on the door are already good men.  We are looking for another good man to answer the door and welcome us into a group who will teach us, learn from us, so that what is gained is equal to that which is given.  In reality the good man knocking on the door becomes a better man, the good man answering the door and the group of men welcoming in the new man also becomes a better men.  We all gain and become better with each new Brother.  Sadly we also suffer when a Brother walks way.

Fellowship in a lodge that did something more then just open pay bills close and everyone departs. Learning, presentations guest speakers. Brotherhood which included time after a meeting for cards or some entertainment.

YES!  Well that is just the opinion of these two Masons.  Business must be addressed, we have to pay the bills but who joined Masonry so they could pay the bills?  We can do that at home where we can fully enjoy the act of paying bills…   Hmm?  We are a social organization, we bond during dinner, we joke over cookies and coffee.  But when was the last time we actually had Masonic education?  What about an esoteric conversation?  What do we use the two foot ruler for?  Yes but why?  There is so much to learn about Freemasonry and we choose to spend our time on bills.  Now let me also say that we are trying new things.  We started the Cinco de Tuesday’s on every fifth Tuesday.  Starting this year, each Movember we will grow mustaches and raise money for men’s health.  We are trying to get some good Masonic education presentations together to enlighten.  Things are starting to happen and we need your enthusiasms, knowledge, and wisdom to help contribute to the betterment of everyone at the Lodge.

Now that you are a Mason, what is Masonry offering you?

The primary thing was instant friends. Immediately upon entering the building, found a group of instant friends, and it didn’t take long to discover that those friends are all over the place.

This is absolutely true and it makes me feel good that this Brother feels this way and that we made him feel this way.  We are friends.  Sometimes we throw the word Brother around too much and sometimes what we need is a friend.  This is important to me, to know that I have a friend and that I am a friend to another.

A chance to come to lodge to try to make a difference. Ascending through the chairs with the hope of someday leading a successful lodge of such.

Allow me to break this one into pieces.  First I want to reword it if I may.  A chance to come to Lodge, ascend through the chairs, and one day lead a successful Lodge of better men, thereby making a difference in their lives, who will then make a difference in their communities and ultimately by the actions of my Brothers we will make the World a better place for everyone.  This Brother’s statement is so profound, so full of the true meaning of Freemasonry everyone needs to read that again.

Remember when you are Master and beyond, that day you walked through the inner door a good man full of expectations.  Hopefully, you will see them coming though that same door just as good and full of expectations as you were.

What are you looking for from Masonry that you are not receiving?

Masonry is something you can get as involved with as you do or don’t wish, which is nice, because it accommodates the interest level of any man. But I do wish we had more members. Not just quantity, we always want the kind of man who fits in well and enjoys it, but it sure would be nice to be in a situation where we didn’t have to sweat it out every year to fill officer chairs, or rely so heavily on a handful of members to carry the load. As it is today, basically everybody who regularly attends will be asked to take an officer position, which isn’t unreasonable, but there is a place, a real place, for brothers who just want to visit, enjoy masonry, enjoy friendships, but not feel obligated to take a position of responsibility in the lodge. There’s nothing wrong with brothers wanting to be a sideliner, and I wish we had the numbers in the craft to support that.

I am going to take sides on this one.  I completely agree with this Brother.  If one of us does not want to take an officer’s chair, then they should not be made to feel obligated to do so.  It is certainly possible that we lost some of our new Brothers because we immediately pushed them into an Officer’s chair.  We essentially robbed them of the learning experience that comes with sitting on the sidelines.  What if that Brother is not comfortable with public speaking, had a bad experience, or just wants to take it all in?  Now we throw him into the chairs with the added pressures of learning lines and being “on stage”.  For some that is enough to make them walk.  I want to take this opportunity to invite any Brother who took an Officer’s chair against their wishes to come back to the Lodge and relax on the sidelines.  I will take the heat from our Worshipful Master.  No pressure Brothers, just come and enjoy the brotherhood.

Coming to Lodge means you are participating.  We have plenty of Officer chairs available.  However, even if you sit on the side you are just as much a part of that Lodge as the Worshipful Master.  You have just as much to contribute to the Lodge and Brothers in the Lodge as anyone there.  Ascending through the chairs is admirable, necessary, and a bit of an obligation to your Lodge.

I don’t see our lodge as successful in getting or retaining membership. It isn’t a very active lodge and new members are few and the ones that have become don’t return.

This is obviously a concern of everyone.  Membership is down, those who are active are not very active.  We need some ideas, we need our member to come to the Lodge and talk about their ideas.  We have over 100 paying members, and out of those 100 members about 10 show up for a stated communication.  A good percentage are out of town, or cannot physically make it to the Lodge and we understand the many other obligations that come up that prevent us from making it to the Lodge.  However, you also made an promise to the Brothers in the Lodge.  You can read a little on my Quality Vs. Quantity post about that.  As we implement ideas, get new ideas, and Brothers start to return to the Lodge to see what we are doing they will attract new members and more activities will result with more participation.

What is keeping you from coming to the Lodge?

Difficulty sitting in lodge, use a walker to get around.  Might have to leave before the meeting is over with.  Have been a good attendance previous years and miss it very much, this news letter is great , keep up the good work.

I am truly humbled by this response.  I know it is difficult when age takes away the things we love most in life.  I know that if any Brother needs to leave the Lodge before we officially close or needs special seating we can and will accommodate.  We have our ritual and such but NOBODY will raise a brow if a Brother stands up and walks out.  I am sure one will follow to make sure you are okay and need help, but we understand.  I wonder if we could make an abbreviated Lodge communication once or twice a year, maybe cut out reading of the minutes, so we can welcome some of our seasoned and experienced Brethren back.  We miss you too and I am sure there are some who never met you Brother yet hold you with as much respect and admiration was each Brother we see every week.  Your encouragement about the newsletter truly makes me happy to be able to bring a small part of the Lodge to you and others who legitimately cannot make it to Lodge.  This makes me want to do even better.  Thank you Brother.

There were a few more questions but these are the answers I felt needed attention.  I think what I learned is that we are a good bunch of Brothers, there are improvements needed, and we need the help of each of our Brothers.

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