“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Strother Martin from the film “Cool Hand Luke.

There was a time in America when our spoken and written words were precise. Sadly, that time is fading. Once upon a time we would say things such as, “His standup comedy grabbed us by the shoulders and shook the funny out of us.” Today, we simply say “LOL.” And, in the past, when events transpired to surprise us, we might have said, “I was in a temporary state of shock and confusion.” Regrettably, nowadays, we are likely to just remark “OMG.”

Do we really mean what we say anymore? Used to be we would greet each other with a simple “hello” or a more time-specific “good morning” or “good evening.” Now, folks are likely to greet one another with the banal, “How are you?” That may be the question that is asked, but does the querier really wish to be fully informed of the state of health of the person asked? Sometimes, when I am asked “How are you?” I’m tempted to transform into my puckish mode and say, “My cat just died, a flying rock broke my car’s windshield this morning, and my Plantar Fasciitis is acting up.” But I refrain because more likely than not, “How are you?” is not really meant as a inquiry about my health and circumstance, but more as a greeting similar to “hello”.

And how often have you visited your favorite coffee shop and engaged in a brief conversation with the barista, who responds to everything you say with the current generational standard, “No worries.” To be frank, I’m not really worried if the barista puts half-and-half or whole milk in my latte, but apparently, in that moment, reducing my level of worry is of primal concern to the barista.

These simple societal pleasantries point out the nuances that are contained within our use of language. We really don’t “worry” too much about it because it’s just part of the social buzz. However, we would miss it if it weren’t there. It would be like walking into a shoe store or department store without the background music.

But in the Lodge room, the precise use of language is, and should be, treated differently. Are we, as Odd Fellows, always aware of the impact of our words? Words do matter. Our Lodge Brothers and Sisters, and applicants seeking to join the Lodge are impacted by what we say. Do we always mean what we say, and say what we mean? A flip, off-the-cuff attempt at gentle humor may be perceived by the listener as criticism, or as an insult, or even worse as an indication of implicit bias. The consequence of the language and words we use may be viewed quite the opposite of what we intended.

And that “failure to communicate” may cause hard feelings or unnecessary turmoil in a place where the cares of the outside world should be left behind.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

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