Jack E. Nixson, 33
S.G.I.G.in Wyoming and Grand Almoner of The Supreme Council, 33
Chairman, Family Life Program
Wheatland, Wyoming

Freemasonry must rise to the challenge of making the family a stronghold of virtue and dignity.

The story is told of a young, single minister preaching what he considered his most profound sermon. It was entitled “Rules for Raising Children.” After he got married and had children of his own, he toned down the text and renamed it “Suggestions for Raising Children.” When his children got to be teenagers, he stopped preaching on the subject altogether. Even the best intentions do not provide perfect answers, for the nurturing of a family is not an exact science.

In the recent past, several unfortunate happenings have been extremely destructive of family psyche. For example, the horrific and senseless bombings in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center in New York City, the baffling murder of JonBonet Ramsey, and the Dunblane, Scotland, ordeal. These dreadful incidents and others of equal violence have scarred the soul of humanity and, since all too often the young and blameless are caught in the cross fire, they have been frightened into distrust of the adult community.

Contrary to these acts of fanaticism, however, are many things Freemasonry can and should do which will work to the benefit of the American family. The historical values of the Fraternity are well documented by its accomplishments. Adding to these laurels is in keeping with our responsibility. Nurturing the family and all it stands for is worthy of our greatest effort.

Recently, a national blue ribbon committee was formed, headed by retired General Colin Powell, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. The United States is now embarked on a National Crusade to enhance the basic values of love, kindness, and respect within the family. The Fraternity should join all Americans in this new endeavor. There will be the nay-sayers who question if any good can be accomplished in this manner, but as Scottish Rite Freemasons, we are deeply committed by our character and tradition to joining others in resolving to make a difference for good. We must not permit the National Crusade to be just rhetoric without action.

Too often national committees think only in terms of huge projects to accomplish goals, but as a Fraternity, we have found that visiting the elderly, playing ball with a child, taking a young person fishing, lending a helping hand where needed, or even simply greeting a passerby pleasantly may be the medicine that cures. Also, when a worthy project proves too big for one organization, it should network with others. Such joint action will ultimately enhance everyone’s spirit and improve community vitality. It’s a win-win situation. All will be recognized for their efforts, and, if not, we need only remember the adage noted by a plaque on our Sovereign Grand Commander’s desk: “You can accomplish much if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Isn’t that the true spirit of the Scottish Rite?

The poet/scientist Loren Isley told the story “The Star Thrower.” In it, a writer, much like himself, strolled the beach every morning before beginning his writing. On a particular morning, he noticed a youth gathering starfish. The young man would then run to the ocean and throw the oddly shaped marine animal as far but as gently as possible. On overtaking the young man, the poet inquired as to what he was doing. The young man responded that the tide was going out, the day was getting warmer, and the starfish would certainly die. The mystified poet then inquired whether the young man realized there were many miles of beach with hundreds of starfish lying in the sand. It would be an impossible task for anyone to make a difference in the life of those starfish.

The young man listened patiently, picked up a starfish, ran to the ocean’s edge, and gently threw the starfish past the tide. He then returned to the poet and said, “It made a difference to that one.”

The older man was surprised and somewhat agitated by the answer. Then, thinking about the incident that evening, he realized the young man had chosen not to be just an observer in the universe and watch it pass by, but rather to be a participant and assist in making a difference. Strengthened by this real- ization, he returned to the beach the following day and joined the young man in returning starfish to the ocean.

The writer had become a “doer,” someone trying to make a difference. This is the spirit the Scottish Rite cultivates, and truly this is the spirit needed to help family life in America.

Freemasons must encourage the magic elixir of hope coupled with hard work in all we do. We must rise to the challenge of assisting in making the family a stronghold of virtue and dignity. This is our heritage, and as Scottish Rite Masons, it is our mission to maintain family life at its highest level. We can and will make a difference!