Robert G. Davis, 33
Guthrie, Oklahoma

Maintaining a healthy family in today’s world is a real challenge, but it is a challenge for which the Scottish Rite is well suited.

We hear a lot of talk today about the breakdown of the family in America. Indeed, recent surveys aimed at checking out overall family health in our country do not paint a rosy picture.

The divorce rate in America is higher than it has ever been. Fewer parents are at home than at any other time in our history. One-parent families are rapidly becoming the rule. More parents are unconcerned and uninvolved with their children at home and at school than ever before.

These are sobering facts.

And to add to the general chaos of bringing up kids in such an emotionally challenged world, there are surprisingly few aids or “schools” parents can attend that provide specific help with parenting skills. It’s hard to find a lunch period where one can learn strategies to build self-esteem in our children. It’s not easy managing an overall healthy environment in the home--when no one is at home.

And too often, we look to others to take care of our roles as parents. In fact, there seems to be a real trend in America to leave the job of parenting up to someone else--daycare centers, schools, mothers-day-out programs, and the like--almost anybody but ourselves, as parents.

Our Grand Commander, in a proclamation to all Valleys (see inside front cover) stated that the family “serves as the bedrock and moral strength of our civilization.” He has called for a new Masonic spirit to promote the family and to build programs which will enhance the values of love, kindness, and respect for the benefit of all family members. It is a declaration that cries out for participation.

And who better than we to guide the spirit of family into the next century? If there is one thing that we know about kids today, it is the fact they want a sense of identity. They want to feel wanted, and they are looking for examples and organizations which give them the right start, i.e., opportunities to be involved, to learn, to lead, and to be personally recognized for making a contribution in their own way with their own lives.

And Masons are as strongly committed to family as any other group in America. After all, family commitment is our tradition. We evolved from an era where a three-generation household was the rule. Our grandfathers and grandmothers were the role models for generations of young boys and girls. The Mason who practiced at home what he was taught in Lodge was almost certain to become a patriarch in his own community. Good deeds, good works, and good examples always generated good reputation.

The point is that we are made of the right stuff!

The Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite has established a Family Life Program Subcommittee whose task it is to bring what we know about family commitment, involvement, and values to the forefront of American culture and society. It’s goal is to bring the ingredients of healthy parenting to every parent in our Fraternity.

That effort most often begins with the father. And we have an organization full of them. We know that if we can get fathers involved with their children, they will literally change what kind of men and women their children will become.

The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry believes that raising children is not only a woman’s work; nor is it only a man’s. The work of recreating the family in America is the work of both parents involved together with their children in ways that make a meaningful and lasting impression. After all, what goes on between children and their parents is the most important determinant of whether or not they will become adults capable of giving a life to others that is productive and worthwhile.

The members of the Subcommittee on the Family Life Program are working hard to organize programs that will put “meat around them words.” And when we do, Masonry will become relevant in our society overnight!

Perhaps we can mobilize the husbands, fathers, grandfathers, and uncles in Freemasonry to reach out and become the right model of masculinity for the next generation of adults--a model that includes the important elements of nurturance, guidance, choice, and respect.

My brethren, imagine a Scottish Rite Family Life Program that is big enough in vision to be duplicated by families and organizations everywhere! Such a model would make a sweeping difference in reversing some of the statistics mentioned earlier. It can change how Masons and Masonry are perceived by Americans today. We can become a nationally known and respected leader in programs that enhance family living in the next century!

The key, of course, is to create programs that teach families how to build themselves to last. That’s where the big picture comes in. And that’s where the Subcommittee on the Family Life Program is concentrating its efforts.

The big picture means that we all understand what it takes for the family to maintain itself as a healthy, functioning unit. In our daily routines of managing and caring for our children, we have to learn how to nurture and guide each other, with each family member sharing in the responsibilities and privileges of being in the family.

As parents, we have to set directions which promote the right behaviors in our own children, and, along the way, teach the right role modeling so our children can ultimately take over their own direction and behavior, make their own choices, think for themselves, and direct their own activities.

A family that works well, works well together. It makes responsible choices, it accomplishes realistic problem solving, and it empowers itself to cope with daily events.

Healthy families also establish and practice respect for themselves and other family members--at the same time--all the time.

Yes, it is an enormous undertaking. But the rewards can be great! And the exciting thing about all this is that it can be done! Building families to last is a skill that can be learned by anyone who understands and cares about the essentials. It really is a matter of “getting the big picture.”

And it’s an idea whose time has come. It’s a program that is right for us because it promotes Masonry’s ideals in making us and our families better at what we do.