[Square & Compasses]

Why did you become a Freemason?

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 15:31:08 EST
To: masonry-ask@mit.edu
From: "Walter E. Lee, Jr." <WalterLee@aol.com>
Subject: Why I Joined Freemasonry

"Why I Joined Freemasonry"

By Walter E. Lee, Jr.

In 1979 I married the love of my life and moved to the small town of Orlinda, Tennessee. Orlinda is little more than a wide spot in the road these days, but once upon a time it was a nice-sized town. It once had its own department store, drug store, two grocery stores, a car lot, dentist and doctor's offices. It was nearly a self-sufficient community. But, with the modernization of the world and the interstate highway system, Orlinda became the simple bedroom community it was when I moved there in 1979. The only businesses in town were a flour mill, a couple of gas stations, and one country grocery store (above which was held a Masonic Lodge). There really was not enough of a town left for the city council to govern.

Somehow, I got it into my head in 1990 that I wanted to run for the office of City Commissioner in this little town. I did and I won. The meetings were boring and useless at worst and challenging on occasion. I always looked forward to any time I could spend helping my community, but I was often discouraged at the roadblocks that were always put up to stop progress and the apathy of the citizens. The absolute best thing that came out of the job was that I became friends with Russel Moore, the city manager. Russel was old enough to be my grandfather, and perhaps I saw him as the grandfather I never had. We tended to agree on most things, even when the other commissioners disagreed with both of us. We often put our heads together to solve problems that had remained unsolvable for many previous years.

One day we were discussion the impending purchase of a new fire truck with the mayor of our small town. We were planning on driving to Elizabethtown, Kentucky to look at a new stainless steel water tank. I mentioned that I was available on Tuesday evening. Both the mayor and Russel said that Tuesday evening would not work, because they both had to attend lodge that evening. We made plans to go another day, but for the first time in my life I wondered, "What is this lodge thing?"

Later, while Russel and I were sitting alone in his office, discussing important and trivial matters, I asked him about Freemasonry. He explained to me what Freemasonry is all about and gave me a rough outline of what happens at the meetings. Then I asked that fateful question: "How does someone become a Mason?" Russel smiled and said, "You just did it" He told me to meet him at the office the next day and he would give me a petition.

The next day, I met Russel at the office as promised. In his hand he held a petition. As he handed it to me, and I reached for it, he retained hold of it and said, "By taking this petition, I want you to promise that you will try to never again do or say anything that would be displeasing in God's eyes. I don't want you to promise me this, but promise yourself."

I petitioned the lodge and got my degrees within about five months. I was raised in October, and in December I was elected Junior Warden of Crystal Fountain Lodge #282. Membership at that time was a staggering 33 members. The next year I was elected Senior Warden and we moved from the old lodge hall above the grocery store to a brand new brick structure paid for by the proceeds from selling the old lodge building to the guy who ran the grocery store, several fundraisers and a lot of donations. I spent two years as Senior Warden before being elected to two years a Worshipful Master. During my second year as Worshipful Master, Russel passed away from lung cancer. He had been a long-time Secretary of the lodge. The next year, I replaced him as Secretary and have been Secretary ever since.

Russel once told me, after I had become a Master Mason, that there would come a time when there would no longer be a Masonic lodge in Orlinda, and he expressed sadness at his own opinion. The membership had been dwindling for years and actually got to an all-time low of only 30 members. I asked him what could be done to prevent this from happening. He told me that since most of our members were past retirement age, it would take some young members embracing the ideals of Freemasonry to take charge and turn the trend around. Crystal Fountain Lodge did not have anyone willing or capable enough to even confer any of the degrees. We depended on other local lodges to come and do our work for us. I started learning and started teaching almost the same things I had just learned. Within a short while there were several of us learning and teaching. We asked other members to get more involved. We visited other lodges. We held fundraisers, not so much to raise funds, but to portray the lodge favorably in the community. We spent money for community improvement. We donated money to schools and individuals.

Today, our lodge has 44 members, and we are once again growing as a lodge. And we all try to never do or say anything that would be displeasing in God's eyes.

Walter Lee, PM
Crystal Fountain #282
Orlinda, TN

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