Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Certainly, you have heard this ancient philosophical conundrum during your school days. But I think it applies not only in the philosophical realm, but also in the real world of Odd Fellowship. How so? Well, let’s start with the teleology of Odd Fellowship. What is it’s purpose? I wager that most of you will say that the purpose of Odd Fellowship is to foster friendship, love and truth. And, at one level, you would be correct. That certainly would be the extrinsic purpose of our Order. But, let’s delve a little deeper. If we do so, we would have to admit that the intrinsic purpose of Odd Fellowship is to continue to exist, to grow and to prosper as an Order. Pretty basic and rudimentary, I admit, but also quite true. If a Lodge closes down, for example, the lofty purposes of its existence become meaningless. The great philosopher Aristotle put it very simply when he said that the purpose of an acorn is to become an oak tree. High and mighty admonitions mean very little if our Lodges diminish and close. I often use the example of the Knights of Pythias – an ancient fraternal Order that was once the third largest fraternity in America with close to a million members. Today, the Knights of Pythias are reduced to a handful of Lodges. The Knights also have great and noble admonitions and goals, but their membership numbers are now so few as to render the Knights virtually invisible.
This leads me to the point of this DMC Newsletter: I write today about the “Invisible Lodge” and what this means for our Order.
I have often encouraged Lodge members to get involved in their communities – to open the doors and windows of the Lodge to the outside world. Activity in the surrounding community is one of the hallmarks of a three-dimensional Lodge. And this is critically important to the survival of our Order in the present and into the future. 21st Century men and women will not be interested in joining a Lodge (and certainly will not be interested in remaining in a Lodge) where the members do little more than attend meetings and read from a red book. The prospective members of this Century (and I’m referring primarily to men and women born in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s) want to be involved in charitable and community work. This can take many different forms. For example, feeding the hungry, helping persons with mental illness, environmental clean-up such as the Adopt-a-Highway program, assisting foster children or those who have recently left the foster care system, etc. The possibilities are virtually endless.
But almost as important as doing good works is the need to make sure members of your community are aware of your Lodge and aware of the good works that you do. If you fail to make them aware, you have effectively become the tree that falls in the forest.
This public awareness is critical to ensuring the survival of your Lodge and of the Order in general. It becomes the primary way that community members become aware of your Lodge and makes recruitment of applicants much easier.
How do you increase public awareness of your Lodge? Three ways:
1. Make sure that the exterior and interior of your Lodge are clean and well-maintained. What does the public see when they look at your Lodge building? What does the public see when they peer into your front windows? The image that the public has of Odd Fellowship is primarily based on what they see when they walk by, look into, or walk into, your Lodge. A shabby exterior, with peeling paint displays a poor image of the Order. It conveys the message that the members don’t care – and if the members don’t care, why should the public. Old signs, threadbare carpets, dirty walls convey an image of a tired Lodge.
2. Make sure that your Lodge is visible and identified as an Odd Fellows Lodge. Too many Lodges have too little in the way of outside signage. Be proud of your Lodge and IOOF, and display the Odd Fellows’ name in a bold way. Also, make sure that the Chamber of Commerce signs leading into your community include an Odd Fellows Lodge sign. Be a player in your community. My own Lodge recently purchased an antique neon IOOF sign which we proudly hung on the side of the building. It is on a sensor and lights up every evening – making our Lodge Hall visible for blocks. The Mayor and many community members came to the Lodge for a lighting ceremony. The historic San Francisco Lodge has the word “Truth” emblazoned on a side of their building in huge block letters. There are many ways that signage can help increase your visibility in the community.
3. Make sure the public is aware of your public and community works. Don’t just rely on word of mouth. Put up posters or fliers before the events. And make sure that press releases and photos are sent to your local newspaper. Don’t be afraid to let the community know that your Lodge is doing good works. Find someone in your Lodge that can write a press release. Find someone who is a decent photographer. Use their talents to get the word out to the local newspaper about your community events. Also, in this day and age, if your Lodge doesn’t have a website, and a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, you have lost the main methods of communication with the new generation. Start at the beginning, and at least develop a website for your Lodge.
Bottom line: Don’t be an invisible Lodge. I’m afraid those invisible Lodges amongst us will simply fade away as members pass away. Instead, be both an active and a visible Lodge. This is the surest way to grow and flourish in your community. One hundred years ago, throughout California, Odd Fellows Lodges were the center of town, both in a physical and in a civic sense. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be an Odd Fellow. We can capture that spirit once again. Some of our Lodges are already doing that. I hope to encourage many more Lodges to join them and become visible again.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California