Published: June 5, 2020

Lest we forget…

Sometimes in our Order we all forget the underlining meaning of it. It is easy to do. When I first joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, I did so because I was lured into it after hearing that the fine words friendship, love, and truth were our bylines. It is an idyllic phrase. I think all of us mean to live by these words, otherwise we would not join, would we?

Like most members I coasted for a few years serving in various lodge positions, then I was lucky enough to become an appointive officer, then become an elective one as well. Unfortunately, I then became more familiar with underlying issues that may haunt any group even one with such high ideals. But there really is no reason for this. If possible, we should all take a moment to reflect on that which is our central meaning.

None of us are perfect. I always have loved that old “Honeymooners” show, and in it Jackie Gleason asked his friend Art Carney to name his most glaring flaw. Art Carney thought about it awhile, and then announced that Jackie Gleason’s biggest flaw was that he could not speak French. Sometimes, I feel that way about life in general. We all hazard along but not one of us can really divine the secret to life. I can’t speak French either. We all make mistakes. Myself especially.

Every day there may arise issues within our order, but unless we want our Odd Fellows to fail completely, we need to face them together. We should view everything in the light of fair play: if we operate within our own parameters of fair play, it’s hard to find fault, whereas if we operate outside our own parameters of fair play, it may very well haunt us forever. Every religion tells us that. There is no need for a code book. I find it comparable to a family that has compiled issues internally, that to an onlooker seem insignificant. We must take the long view. We need each other.

Many of us, particularly those in roles of responsibility like to quote the code, either the Roberts Code of California, or the Sovereign Grand Lodge Code of General Laws.

I’ve probably done my share of doing that, but we need to remember that codes are words on paper, and don’t define the soul of one single member. It would be a pretty dry order if it did. All of us make mistakes. Not one of us can claim that they live solely within the parameters of a written code. But that may be our intention. In my own view, if we are practicing friendship, love, and truth, in equal parts, we are living by the spirit of the code.

When we speak to another Odd Fellow, we should try and put ourselves in their position, particularly in this present time of widespread hardship. I am trying to do this as much as possible, myself. I have a lot of flaws, as do the best of us, but if we live by our best words, the rest may look at us and see that our worst flaw, just like Ralph Kramden, is that we don’t speak French…

In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles

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