Worshipful Grand Master K. I. Wright
Southeastern Masonic Conference
It is indeed a pleasure for me to be a part of this Southeastern Masonic Conference and to share Masonic fellowship and brotherly love with each of you here assembled. I thank you for the kind invitation to speak to you on this occasion. I bring to you fraternal greetings from the 65,000 Master Masons, which make up the 364 Masonic Lodges in Tennessee. Working together and sharing ideas can do nothing but strengthen our organization. Keeping in mind that what works for some does not always work for another, but by working together sharing ideas, achievements, disappointments, hopes, and inspirations, we can all at least head in the same direction sort of like little streams of water that lead to and make up big rivers. In other words working together we will stand divided we fall. The Masonic Fraternity is a great product and it is up to each of us as Masonic Leaders to renew, revive and bring new life to an already successful Organization. This is indeed the main purpose of Masonic Conferences such as the one we are participating in this week. I hope that what I have to say today in talking about our Masonry in Tennessee will help you in your Grand Jurisdiction in some small way in planning for the future of our great Masonic Organization. I am happy to share with you today some of the accomplishments, disappointments, and plans we have for the future of Masonry in Tennessee. Keeping in mind that what works for some will not always work for others. Hopefully some of our experiences in Tennessee will help you in making plans for your Grand Jurisdictions. As we listen to our televisions and read in our newspapers we can see what is happening in our society today. We can not ignore the fact that we as Masons have an obligation and a need to do something for the betterment of our society. Many Masons believe that prospective members will continue to knock on our door because they have done so in the past. But without an effort to make our selves known how will these prospective members even find our door in the first place? We can very well evaluate our existence by asking ourselves three questions: 1. Is our fraternity as great as we perceive it to be? 2. Are our philosophies, principles, and teachings as good as we suggest? 3. Would the world be a better place to live if more people subscribed to our philosophies and principles? I think we all know the answer to these questions. Our actions speak not only for ourselves but also for the organization to which we belong. Others who know little about our fraternity judge Freemasonry by our actions not our words. Masons are supposed to be good men- sincere, honest, forthright and want to contribute to the good of the world. We want to be involved citizens who preserve the values that have made America great. Masons are a cadre of individuals rich with experience who can offer much. But my brothers we must first educate ourselves so we can educate others to let them know who we are and what we stand for. We can not be afraid to become involved. Each of us should search deep inside for our strengths and find the best way possible to contribute these strengths to others. Freemasonry will be judged by what we do and each member will be remembered for what he did and the world will be a better place in which to live. The Grand Lodge of Tennessee started a program in 1994 called VISION 2013. This was to be a long-range program. We named it 2013, the year our Grand Lodge will be 200 years old. For the most part this has been and still is a successful long-range program. We could have very well called it Change for survival, wake up Masons, Look to the future, or any number of things all intended for a long range planning program. Our program was intended to help our local lodges have well planned and well rounded programs that would hopefully appeal to the greatest number of members as possible. We documented our guidelines in a 2013 questionnaire, which was designed as a tool to evaluate our program. As an incentive we present annual awards - bronze, silver, gold & platinum - for those lodges and individuals achieving designated points. The questionnaire included one section for community relations, which emphasized several projects intended to make Masonry more visible outside the Lodge room. Everyone can not be active in all these programs but each of us as Masons can do something if we so desire. We started with 5 major programs statewide, and if these do not appeal to local lodges for whatever reason, they are encouraged to pick out some project of their choice that will give back something to their community. The 5 programs we suggested were; Habitat for Humanity, building affordable housing for low income families, organ donor awareness, don't take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here on earth, domestic violence shelters, dealing with battered women and abused children, Masonic Service related programs such as V. A. hospital volunteer and visitation program and Children's Literacy programs in our elementary schools. We knew that, as Masons we had the tools to work with, we just needed to put them into practice. This can be summed up In the words of the poet, I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me than merely show me the way. The eye is a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine council is confusing but example is always clear, and the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds, for to see the good in action is what everybody needs. I can soon learn how to do it if you let me see it done. I can watch your hands in action but your tongue too fast may run and the lectures you deliver may be wise and true but I'd rather get my lesson by observing just what you do, for I may misunderstand you and the high advise you give but my brother there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live. We are now in the 7Th year of our Vision 2013 program in Tennessee. We started out with our task force meeting every month and this was necessary in the beginning, as there were many ideas and a need to build the organization. As time passed and as we became more organized we agreed that every other month would be better and this seems to be quite sufficient. As I mentioned earlier what works for some will not necessarily work for others. Our Vision 2013 questionnaire is available on our website and I have a copy to give to each of you today. Out of our original programs, two have come to the top. This does not mean that the others are a failure and we are by no means abandoning them. I am reminded of the great home run king Babe Ruth. He was known for how many home runs he hit, but he struck out far more times than he hit home runs. Our top programs have proven to be, Habitat for Humanity and Organ donor awareness. What happen to the others? We still have them and much good has come from them. They have just not been as productive and have not created as much interest among the craft. There is a great need for our Children's Literacy program in our elementary schools. In fact our chairman for this committee over booked the program. He asked the schools what they needed and they told us. We could not get the local lodges to fill the request. The interest was just not there. The MSA - related V. A. Hospital program is about the same. The hospitals certainly need the volunteers and we have been able to help in many ways but the program is lacking for support. Some of our lodges are still working with domestic violence shelters but this to has not really been a total success. In Tennessee our strength seems to be with Habitat for Humanity and Organ Donor awareness. We are very fortunate to have two very dynamic chairmen in these efforts that make the time, and have the zeal, to carry their messages personally to many brethren across the state. We have not abandoned any of our original programs and our chairmen are still working to promote them. They are all still publicized inside and outside our lodges and in the Vision 2013 Questionnaire and any volunteers interested in any of them are referred to the chairman of that particular program. Each of our programs has added something to the community and has helped to make masonry visible in our volunteer state. For the remainder of this discussion I want to center on Habitat for humanity and organ Donor awareness. Both of these have been very successful and continue to make our communities a better place to live and continue to make Masonry visible in our state. This is our main objective. Masonry in motion, Ritual in action. Both Habitat for Humanity and Organ Donor Awareness have affiliates all over the world and we as Masons work in partnership with them. Working in partnership helps to keep our interest and morale in high esteem. I believe that this has had a great deal to do with these programs being so successful. The Habitat for Humanity program probably has been given our top priority. We call this the Grand Master's work project. Our state is divided into three Masonic sections and the Grand Master each year comes from a different section of the state. We started the Grand Master's work project, building a Habitat House in the Grand Master's home section in 1998 and have continued through this year of 2000. Plans are already being made for 2001. We average at least one Habitat House a year sponsored by Masons of our state and work in many others all over the state helping out the affiliates. We work in partnership with the local Habitat Affiliates in all our efforts. With this plan we can not fail. The house is going to be built and if we have trouble the affiliate will still keep the project going. The support we have gotten from the Masons has been great and sort of gives us bragging rights as to what Masons are doing for their community in our volunteer state. Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry, and works in partnership with other organizations such as ours. Their program has been very successful and has a great track record. It has proven very successful to Masonry in Tennessee. Many of our wives and members of the Eastern Star have been active in Habitat. Some of them actually work on the project itself but most have helped with refreshments and food for the workers. A good number of our brothers and ladies have worked with former President Jimmy Carter and his efforts with habitat. We raise money through donations to the Grand Lodge in the name of Habitat, sale of Habitat-Masonic lapel pins, Tee Shirts and other related items such as carpenter aprons with both Habit and Masonic emblems on the aprons. Another popular way of raising money is through the mason jar program. We take mason jars and put a label with pennies from heaven for Habitat on them. These jars are maintained by individual Masons and are placed in stores, barber shops, laundry mats and other public places. This projects gives Masons something to do and the jars bring attention to a good deed the Masons are doing, thus making Masonry Visible. We also receive money from the affiliates them selves as this is a partnership endeavor. The Vision 2013 movement was begun in 1994. Even prior to this time many brethren statewide became involved with local Habit for Humanity affiliates usually through a church or employer sponsored group. As Vision 2013 evolved brethren realized that Masonic involvement with Habitat would be an ideal project that would accomplish Vision 2013 goals of putting Masonry into action outside the walls of the Lodge. Brother Tom Boduch, a medical Doctor in Kingston, Tennessee is the Chairman of the Habitat for Humanity Task Force in Tennessee and has had several articles published in both the Scottish Rite and York Rite magazines. Brother Boduch is willing and ready to help any group or organization get involved in the Habitat program and can be reached through the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. I also have a hand out explaining our Habitat program in Tennessee. Our Organ Donor awareness program also works with affiliates worldwide. Today more than 70,000 Americans await life saving organs. Tragically the need for donated organs and tissues is greater than the supply. Thousands of people die needlessly each year due to lack of donors. The Organ donor program in Tennessee is a promoter in distributing organ donor information, asking brothers to sign their driver's license and getting their friends to do the same, passing out the green organ donor awareness lapel pins, providing speakers on organ and tissue donations, working with the county court clerks when renewing their car tags by adding a dollar for donation to the organ awareness program and more or less being a spokesman for the program. We don't know just how much good we do but we do know that organ donors have risen in the past several years in Tennessee and we take credit for that. What a great need we have for Organ and Tissue donors. 70,000 people in the United States are on a waiting list. In Tennessee alone 1,343 Tennesseans were on a waiting list as of June 2000. 20,961 organ transplants were performed in the United States during 1998. In 1998 92 Tennesseans died while waiting for an organ transplant. Tennessee had 132 organ donors in 1998. 410 patients were transplanted in Tennessee in 1998. Our Organ donor awareness program in Tennessee has been a very successful program and gives Masonry a lot of coverage, thus helping to make Masonry Visible in our volunteer state. Brother Don Jones, a Past Master of Dresden Lodge #90 and a heart transplant recipient, is our Organ Donor Task Force Chairman and will help any organization get started in a similar program in your Grand Jurisdiction. He to has had several articles about Organ Donor Awareness published. In closing I want to read an article about a person who is about to die and can't be made well. It is indeed an unselfish testimony and a great admonition for others to do the same. It is called, "TO REMEMBER ME". Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman. Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain. Give my blood to the teen-ager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play. Give my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make crippled children to walk. Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells if necessary and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window. Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow. If you must bury something let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man. Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If by chance you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked you to do, I will live forever. Give the gift of life, be an organ, tissue donor, it is the Masonic thing to do. Organ donor awareness and Habitat for humanity programs are not hard to get started and involved in. The main thing to remember is start out in a small way and then progress. The sky is the limit. We must learn to walk before we can run. Both of these programs are already well known and have affiliates already established. The more involvement the better the program will be. The key is Partnership. Much can be done if we don't worry about who gets the credit. Our Task force in Tennessee is willing and ready to assist any organization in greater detail in any of our programs. May I leave you with this thought? Brethren is far better to love than to hate and it is not our duty to be better than our neighbor but be better than ourselves and the more we have the more we owe to those who need our assistance. Thank you for your time and attention.