Home > Freemasonry, masonic, organization, volunteer > All volunteers take one upright regular step…

All volunteers take one upright regular step…

I would like to say, with all due modesty, of course, that I was invited to sit on an important Grand Lodge committee the other day. In fact, I’d also like to think that I was asked because the other members desired to hear my input, and respect my keen insights and quick wit. In fact, literally half the people recognized me and called me in to sit down.

Yeah, well, I’d like to say that. Unfortunately, it’s much more likely that I was asked because I happened to stick my head into a room in which there were only 2 people, one of whom knew me and wondered what the hell I was doing wandering around the building.

Good thing I’ve got a pretty good imagination to make up for my lack of ego, huh?

As it happened, I was looking for another committee meeting which I had thought was in that room. Having nothing better to do for a couple of hours, I sat in on this one, increasing the membership by 50%, as summer vacations and functions of appendant orders caused most of the other members to be absent that day. The Chair introduced me to the other member, a relatively new Mason who was trying to help re-write some of the new GL rules that this year’s Most Worshipful wanted to implement.

As I listened to the changes and the reasons for them, I began to think about that old quote attributed to Otto von Bismark about laws and sausages, and how it’s best not to see either of them in the making. Some of the discussion involved not only interpreting what the GM would want, but also trying to implement the new regulations in such a way as to not cause hard feelings for people in other positions who might be affected, nor to make it difficult for those who need to implement the rules, nor to cause people not even connected with the section to feel slighted.

Feel slighted? Hey, we’re all Masons, right? We’re all working for a common cause, right? Anyone would immediately look beyond their own area to see how it impacted the greater good of the Craft, right?

Yes, I’m a new Mason. Does it still show?

Freemasonry is an organization run on volunteer efforts, but like any organization there is a political component that one must understand. I’m using the word “political” in its widest sense; any organization with more than two people needs to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of its various members and apply them where most appropriate. The problems come in when some of the members need extra incentives or motivations for doing the things that need doing: some members want to feel that they’ve made an important contribution and want to be recognized for that. This in itself isn’t the problem, the problem is how to recognize and reward those people. In a non-paying organization, recognition and awards are often the currency, the speculative wages, if you will.

Before I joined the fraternity, I used to volunteer time, money, and energy to other causes, some of which would recognize my input with dinners or plaques. I pointedly told one chairperson that my own time is valuable, and when I donate, I want all of it to go toward the organization, so please not to waste any of it by spending money on a plaque or a dinner for me. Hey, look, a couple of bucks on a fancy pen with the organization’s name on it is one thing; treating me to a $50 dinner or a $20 plaque is wasteful – in my opinion, of course.

But that’s me. Other people really cherish their name on a brass strip, or being called up for a photograph in front of a group of their peers. While I disdain publicity (yes, I know I’m writing a web log, so please shut up), I’m also not oblivious to the fact that some people will work like crazy for such compensation. A brother elsewhere has whispered good counsel in my ear, explaining that if someone is willing to pitch in all year long to get a project off the ground, or to set up booths, or to flip pancakes, and if all it takes is a $10 pin and his name in the paper, then what’s the problem? And in that light, I have to agree.

Because I own a business and am used to just running things my own way, I too often get focused on the process itself, instead of considering how the process affects the other people involved. This makes me a little too quick to plan things and get them started, and I find that I’ve needed to learn to take a step back and let other people haggle over some of the details for a bit. It gives them a sense of ownership and an opportunity to “buy in” to the project because they know that they’ve had some input. And don’t get me wrong – I truly feel that this is important, especially when all of those involved get only speculative wages. My own impatience when trying to figure out all the details is my problem, and because I’m ultimately more concerned with what makes the fraternity operate better, I’m trying to take more consideration for that.

And that brings me back to my sitting in on this committee meeting. It’s difficult enough to get people to help with some of the heavy lifting, so we need to be as accomodating and appreciative as possible for everyone who puts in an effort. I have this theory that out of the 16,000 Masons in Connecticut, only 1,600 show up at lodge meetings and other functions, and out of those, only 160 are probably doing the work to organize and make things run smoothly… or as smoothly as can be expected in our volunteer organization.

Oh, and did I mention the reason that I had popped my head into that particular room? I was looking for the committee that I actually serve on. Turns out I had the right room, but the wrong time. Well, more like wrong day. My own meeting was, er, an entire week later.

Volunteers, eh? I guess you get what you pay for.

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