Freemasons across the globe often make a reference to their ‘Masonic Birthday’ which is the date which they were raised to the degree of Master Mason. I thought I would offer up my own short story on how I arrived ‘late’ to my own Masonic Birthday.
Masonically, I am still in ‘year zero’, as I was only recently raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason this year. Needless to say, at 51 years old, I took my time to finally petition the fraternity for membership. Many of my friends and family were curious as to why, after reaching my 50’s, I had finally decided to pursue Freemasonry. I suppose the fact that I am not alone in my age group for beginning my journey ‘later in life’ does not concern me much, since I have witnessed many middle aged and older men equally impassioned about making that initial overture for membership into Freemasonry – so I’m in good company! But I as my early life had already put a spark of interest in Freemasonry for me…so let me start there.
Life for me started in Spain at a Naval hospital, born to a Navy family, and surrounded by a lot of Navy brats, on a Navy base. I moved around a bit and had a pretty strict upbringing. Truth is, I was taught early to have a deep respect for fairness, integrity, honesty, and hard work…this was the way I was raised and my folks were sincere in their efforts to instill a love of moral conscience in me at an early age. Correspondingly, these were also the qualities they sought out in other people.
One like-minded couple with whom they were the best of friends, Josephine (Jo) and Skip, became my God-parents soon after I was born. Skip was a Warrant Officer in the Navy and served with my father, a navy chief, while they were stationed in Spain. Skip was also a Freemason and active in both blue lodge and in Scottish Rite. By the time I had started high school (early 80’s) our families had long since separated to different parts of the US. Skip’s family were living in Norfolk, Va., while my family had relocated to Chicago, Ill. I remember spending a summer with Skip and Jo when I was a freshman, how much he loved BBQ’ing, fishing with myself and his two sons, and reading.
Skip was a good man. I remember his laugh and how much he reminded me of my own Dad in both personality and temper. The two men really did seem like brothers from different mothers. Skip never talked much about his ties to Freemasonry. During my short stay with them while on summer break, I got up to courage to ask him what a Freemason was…and his answer puzzled me. I recall him saying, “A Freemason is a good man who has made a decision to work to become a better one. If you are lucky enough…and you keep your nose clean…maybe one day you will be a good man and decide to take the hard road to becoming a better one.” Actually – Freemasonry sounded like an awful lot of work! But, that was all he said – and I never asked him again. (Cryptic answers are like pepper-spray to a 14-year old.) But his answer kept bouncing around in my head long after I returned to Chicago.
Much to my father’s dismay, after high school, I enlisted in the United States Air Force, as I’d already decided that I’d rather serve my country on land than at sea! I was lucky enough to be able to travel extensively during my time in service as well as after I had left the military and entered the civilian workforce. I was blessed to have been influenced by men and women of all races, creeds, colors, cultures, religions, and backgrounds over the course of my life. During my years and travels, I had come to the realization that people, in general, focus on differences between each other – sometimes to the exclusion of all else. I often wonder what our world would be like if we all focused on what we had in common? Choosing instead to cherish our differences rather than use them as an excuse to sow division. It’s a great ideal…I often wonder if it will ever catch on.
Fast forward to a year ago. My Godfather had long since passed from this world. Occasionally I would think on him, and his words still echo in my head. Then, one beautiful summer day, as we were meandering our way through downtown Libertyville, my wife suddenly pointed to the side of an old brick building and asked, “What’s that?” She was pointing to the Square and Compasses on the entryway of the Masonic Lodge #492. A masonic lodge in downtown Libertyville? Really? I’d been living here since 2004 and had never even noticed the building.
Why did it take me until the young age of 51 to start pursuing my curiosity around Freemasonry? Perhaps it was simply that I was finally ready to start examining, more deeply, my own moral fiber, and what it meant to try to become a better man. I think every man has a different answer to that very personal question – but one thing the fraternity has provided is an awful lot of brethren across the globe who are trying to find their own answers to that very same question…all while ignoring the social/political/ideological differences between them. What a wonderful question to have in common!
Enjoy your travels through life…I hope my short story made you curious enough to start asking your own questions!
–Brother Patrick Sand