Sean O’Neill, 32
Annandale, Virginia

An anecdote of distress eased by a Mason accents the fact that Masonry’s continued good name depends on us.

A Brother once told me a thought-provoking story about a shopping trip he took to a mall near his home. He was just leaving his parked car when a woman carrying a child rushed up to him and, evidently noticing the Square and Compasses on his bumper, asked urgently in broken English if he were a Freemason. When he answered in the affirmative, she made an extraordinary declaration: “At last, someone I can trust!”

It seemed she was staying with friends while on her first visit outside her native Germany. She had been told to be careful regarding crime in America, but had also obviously heard good things about Freemasons. She needed help, she explained, because her son had become violently ill, and in her upset state, she couldn’t remember where she had parked her car.

Fortunately, the situation was soon resolved; most malls, should you ever need this information, have a first-aid facility on the premises. In this case, the child was determined to be suffering with severe flu and would recover with medical attention.

The mall security personnel soon located her car, and everyone involved received her gratitude. The implications of the story, however, lingered in my mind. I wondered who or what had somehow convinced this woman that any Mason she might encounter, anywhere in the world, could be trusted implicitly? It was as though some Super Mason, some Brother perfect in honor and chivalry, had traveled that path before and earned that reputation. We, not as perfect by far, still trade on his good deeds. Or, perhaps more likely, today’s Masons simply ride comfortably on the shoulders of the countless heroes who went before, those Freemasons who took themselves and their oaths seriously every day of their lives.

But we must eventually earn our own way and provide that sight-unseen reputation for the Masons of tomorrow. Therefore, we of the Brotherhood, should be thoughtful and circumspect before casting aside the Square and Compasses and indulging our passions. An obscenity shouted at another motorist conveys a powerful message when it is launched from a vehicle bearing Masonic insignia. A little sleight of hand in business looks very different when the fingers taking the money wear a Masonic ring. By virtue of our oaths and our honor, we are not like other men, and if the reputation of the Super Mason is to survive this generation, his acts will have to be performed by us today.

In some quarters, it seems fashionable to characterize us as good-natured party boys who indulge in some pointless rituals and give money to charity. In such eyes, we appear archaic and a little silly, like TV’s Fred Flintstone and the Loyal Order of the Buffalo or Homer Simpson and his brief membership in the Stonecutters. But that is not who we are. Nor are we terrible men who worship Satan, as interpreted by some grossly uninformed individuals and organizations. Nor are our official beliefs incompatible with Christianity or any other faith tradition. We are sworn to revere the Great Architect of the Universe, to behave with good character, to assist those in need, and to lay down our lives for our Brother’s sake. No pathetic or evil caricature of our Order captures such commitments. We are who we are; we are Masons.

If we sometimes feel like members of an old-fashioned and forgotten organization, it is surely sad, but remember that the world has heard of you, and sometime, maybe soon and by surprise, the wisps of that sad feeling will be blown away, not by the dramatic winds of a crisis, but rather by the gentle breeze provided by a frightened stranger at a shopping mall.