Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Frequent contributor to these DMC Newsletters is Past Grand Master Rick Boyles. Rick is a very insightful Odd Fellow. I think you will find Brother Rick’s current submission to be particularly astute regarding the human condition, and more particularly, the state of our beloved fraternal Order.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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What Shall We Talk About?

This is a subject many of us share in common—the fear of public speaking. One of the most significant aspects of the Odd Fellows is that we come from all walks of life. When new people join, we often know little or nothing about them. As adults, most of us tend to make small talk until we get to know each other better. But many of us often become more guarded as well. Perhaps it’s a fear of some inadequacy or an air of superiority on one side or both sides of the conversation. Of course, it should not be this way, but most of us, being elderly or at least mature, have a lot of experience to draw from, and many of our interactions are influenced by our own past experiences. Then, when we become more advanced in our lodge or other groupings of members, we often carry the baggage of what has already happened. It’s only natural to have an apprehension of whatever comes next.

Then, we see that each member we encounter may have a flaw or characteristic we feel we have already experienced. Sometimes, we fear or dread further encounters. Nothing in life should be seen in this way, but it is a part of each of us that our personal history may influence all future encounters. One does not need to be Sigmund Freud or Friedrich Nietzsche to see that life’s interactions are often imperfect. But it also affects and enlarges our personal histories and can develop into greater familiarity with our order.

Then, because of modern developments within our order and from outside influences, we also see that things are changing significantly. Membership is dropping; we are getting older, and time is becoming more precious as the days seem to shorten. All of us eventually will stop attending due to retirement or unforeseen circumstances. It is inevitable. We are often so inwardly guided by our own sense of the dwindling of time that it affects everything we do, yet it is hard to communicate this fact to one another. When we meet a new member, we become withdrawn in our interactions, filled with a foreboding of what may come, or try to ensure their personality is as close as possible. Naturally, we tend to categorize individuals, and even though we may feel non-prejudicial, this categorization may impact all further interactions with incoming individuals. Speech itself may become difficult or halting.

Many topics we encounter within our order are colored by fear or apprehension, but ideally, it should not be this way. We tend to forget that we are to presume ourselves to be Brothers and Sisters and not separate personalities. Of course, Friendship, Love, and Truth should always be our call signs, but we tend to assume that one aspect or another of our motto is not being adhered to perfectly. We should lose this fear by conscious talk or dispelling anything threatening to come our way. This seems easy but can be a stretch that we must try to attain, or else the question will constantly torture us: What Shall We Talk About?

Consequently, the question quickly becomes: Is membership even a topic any longer? It is a fact that all fraternal groups and even religions are seeing a steep decline in numbers. Still, the Odd Fellows have dropped in numbers at a much more significant percentage than the Masons and other large groups. At one time, did you realize that our now dwindling group was the largest fraternal order in the world? What made our decline even more precipitous than other groups? Why do we intentionally avoid the issue? One member asked me what difference is it if you come from a lodge of 300 members or a lodge of 30? Another member responded simply that the difference is 270 members. Good response. Short and to the point. We must decide if we want the order to continue beyond our own personal involvement. If not, small talk is all we have left. Put simply, if our order has been reduced to the level of 5-10 members grouped around a table, and if we refuse to address our most pressing issue of membership, we are enabling our inevitable downfall and trapped within our attempts at small talk.

In F., L., & T., Rick Boyles

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