Why We Work

Why We Work
By Most Illustrious Companion John D. Barnes
Past Most Illustrious Grand Master and Grand Treasurer, Grand Council of New Jersey

Man Pushing Boulder
Man Pushing Boulder
(Photo Credit: dreamstime.com)


‘Work for a cause, not for applause. Live to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.’

My Companion:

All too often, we are each guilty of losing sight of why we are doing something. At work, we work overtime so that we look better than our co-workers, instead of doing it because we have a deadline to meet. At home, we may be “extra nice” to our spouse because we want to go to a meeting that night, instead of doing it because they deserve it. It is no different at any of our meetings.

We all know people who show up a few minutes early and help set up the room when there’s almost nothing left to do. But you never see them help put everything away when no one else is in the room. Or they volunteer to take the smallest role in the conferral of a degree and then let everybody know that they helped. They’re the first to speak and the last to do. A friend of mine calls them “Spotlight Masons” – people who are Masons only while the spotlight is on them.

My old Lodge had one Past Master who felt very strongly that we should have round tables in the collation room, rather than the rectangular ones. He felt so strongly that he had to get up at every meeting he attended, which was about every third one, and speak for five minutes about it. He never did anything about it, such as find out what the round tables would cost, or figure out how many people could be seated in the room; he simply spoke at the meeting so that his name was in the minutes. He continued to do this until another Past Master grew tired of it and made him a doll-size round table.  He presented it to him in open Lodge – we never heard about round tables again.

None of us are immune to applause. We all love to be recognized for the things we do. It takes a very special person to continue doing something without any recognition at all. We are all proud of the jewels and fancy aprons we wear at a meeting. But the true test of your intentions is whether you continue to work hard after you are recognized for your efforts. If you stop working after you get a reward for your labors, you have to ask yourself if the medal is what you were working for.

We should strive to be the kind of Mason who, when the Chair sees you enter, he says “Thank God he’s here” instead of “Oh God, he’s here”.