So here it comes. In an effort to start making regular entries to our Lodge’s blog, I’ve decided to write a piece on the obligatory topic, those scary kids that dress like hipsters (what is a hipster anyways) and won’t stay off my lawn, the Millennial. Why does it seem that everyone that drinks bad coffee and eats cold pancakes wants to put their two cents in on this topic? What is it about this group of men that has occupied our mind? Why do we feel we need to reach out and understand who they are? Because it matters to the lodge. We know we need young guys and we know that our aging generation doesn’t seem to be able to connect to them. So where do we go from here?
Let us first discuss why this is even a problem. Why do we feel that we need to label them? Why are we so hesitant to invite them into our ranks? Are we hesitant to bring them into our ranks? Lets be honest, they scare us a little. We know we need them but we look at them and wonder; if I can’t even understand who they are, how could I ever begin to know if they are the good men we are looking for. I mean look at what they wear, and how they walk and you have to admit they have pretty funny looking hair. They don’t seem to want the same things I do and I can’t tell if they are living by a code of ethics such as we require. Well let me tell you something pops they are a product of ourselves and we have a duty to do right by them. I’m not saying that we should let every Millennial enter that knocks on our door, but I will say that the way we tell if they are worth the trouble is the same way we have always done it. We get to know them, we tell them what we expect and we see that they hold true to the things that really matter. We have sat on our laurels far too long and we need to do some work before we can hand the reigns over and rest for a while. I know its a pain that we have had to wait so long to do this but it’s important work and there is no one left to do it.
Let me first start by saying this is just my opinion just like all those other articles you see. These are just opinions formed over bad coffee and good Brothers, so take it with a grain of salt. I do however, think that I have a bit of a different of perspective on the issue because I am one of the few stuck in the middle between the ancients and the moderns. That mystic cult identified as Generation X. What a title to be had! What this gives me is the understanding of both sides of the coin. This understanding I hope that I can use to bridge the gap between two groups of people that are very different but who desperately need each other. We all know there is a continuity gap from the Greatest Generation to that of the Millennials. This space of time where it wasn’t hip to join a fraternity your dad belonged to. Even the few that we have tend to more identify with the older generation. Well the truth is that this is it. This is the only difference that matters, that there is a gap between the old timers and the youngsters of today. To bridge that gap we simply need to find common ground.
There is good news! It may seem like a secret but more and more the Millennials are looking to our Fraternity. You may not see it, you may not know they are poking around, but I assure you they are. The reason you don’t know is because these young guys communicate much differently than the older generations. Ask a young person what communication means and they will say things like social media, blogs, text, twitter, facebook, and a slew of other things. They have been taught that communication means computers or other electronic devices. It’s no wonder you don’t hear them knocking. We say they spend all their time staring at their phones wondering how they can do that all day. What we fail to realize is what they are doing is learning, or in other terms more familiar seeking light. Make no mistake that one of the topics on their mind is Freemasonry. A mystery that they only know as ,”your grandpa belonged to the masons.” They grew up in a world that questions are many and the answer is just a click away. They research things on a whim or fancy, so why wouldn’t they look at our Order should curiosity strike? For those of you that think that they are just going to those nefarious parts of the internet that you’ve been warned about may I remind you that this blog is on the web under a site that would be brought up should you search Renton Masonic Hall. I also assure you that one of the skills that these youngsters are adept at is recognizing hogwash or at least going to get both sides of the story before they form an opinion. They are much more open minded than past generations and you would do well to remember that the next time you hesitate to discuss something with these young men. I only state this because I know that this is a worry from many Masons that have had to defend the character of the fraternity from people that have received bad information. I also wanted to give you something positive that you can relate to these whippersnappers in an effort to find the common ground.
The other good news is that what has spurred this interest also puts us in kind of a good light. Recent books and movies have sparked that interest in such a way that there is an industry sprung from it. Hundreds of books on mystic orders, alchemy and the occult have abound, and at the top of this mystic pyramid, sits our little fraternity as the capstone. The one order that can give them a link to the past. The only question is, can we deliver? Can we give them what they are looking for or do we end up looking like a bunch of old men that sit around and eat cold pancakes and drink bad coffee? (Personally I think that is the true hidden mystery and answer to all) Are we that or are we the catch phrases we so often repeat? Lets be more than catch phrases, let us be the conductors of these men to the truth. We do this and our fraternity will not only rebound but it will flourish and become the shining light it once was.
So we recognize there is a communication gap but we also recognize that these Men are looking for answers. They are looking for answers because they are sprung from a generation of people that believed that the key to coolness was apathy. They have seen that their “Idols” proved their coolness by showing the world that nothing matters (think Bevis and Butthead). They are slowly beginning to realize that this is failing them and they want to have something to care about. They need something to care about. They want to catch that essence of men that did care about things and they realize that they are quickly losing the chance to do that. We can capitalize on this and all we have to do is be open and be our honest selves. We already have what they want we just have to be there to give it to them. (and a big part of this is teaching them that cold pancakes and bad coffee among brothers is part of that formula)
To be honest with them, is to understand them and recognize that they do look up to you, even if it’s hard to see that while their head is buried in their laptop. I know you feel like you have been pushed aside, and that can be disheartening. All the knowledge you have to give and it is replaced by a device that fits neatly into a front pocket. But I enjoin you to remember that we are artisans and our sacred and in depth knowledge can not be replaced by You Tube videos. You have the deeper answers, and often those answers come in the stories that you are too stoic to tell. Remember that these men live in a time where they are taught that masculinity is something to be ashamed of, and while this is a whole topic for another discussion, I implore you to remind these young men what it is to be a man. You can do that by telling them the stories of greatness that you have reasoned in yourself are not to be retold. You are men of great battles and great struggles. You are also men of great triumph, and these men need to hear these stories because they need to prepare for a future where those virtues will be needed again. Even if it doesn’t mean they become that does not mean that it isn’t still fun sitting around a cup of bad coffee and telling the stories that made you who you are. The truth is that these men are the same as you were when you were young, looking for answers in a crazy world and willing to knock on any door that may have a piece of those answers. Look back and remind yourself what it was like to be that young man and be the old man you needed to show you the way. They may roll their eyes a bit at first, but just as we did with our dads, they will come around and remember the stories with a fondness. These stories may be all they have to lean on when they are in need of resolve. Build that foundation for them.
Well this is great we realize now that we still are relevant and that we have the answers but it this doesn’t seem to be filling the chairs does it. Well that is where guys like myself come in (You know because it takes all kinds right). We get the word out. We tell these young men where they can go to meet. We use our magic words like social media, WWW. and all the other strange words you so often hear. Don’t worry about the details. That is my contribution. An investment that people like me make because we recognize the value of having a future of good men. Be patient and have faith that we are doing the best we can. Just be ready that when they come knocking, I need you to be the answer they are seeking. I need you to show them that you are interested in showing them. Expect them to be uncomfortable, as they are not use to people caring. They haven’t seen a Master do his work This is important because they aren’t looking for bad coffee and cold pancakes they are looking for so much more. The neat thing about it is that if you show an interest in these young men they will produce dividends for the lodge with a zeal that can only be found in an apprentice that has a passion for his craft. Set them to work and I promise that they will impress you with what they can do beyond your wildest dreams.
And once they are done with a days hard work, they may need some cold pancakes and a nice cup of bad coffee…