Odd Fellowship has four commandments: Bury the dead, relieve the distressed, educate the orphan, visit the sick. The concept is to do good works in our communities. But is it that simple? Let’s look at an ethical situation.
Pretend for a moment your lodge was on a ship that sank to the bottom of the ocean. Your lodge members found their way to one of the lifeboats and filled it to within ten seats of full capacity. You are adrift on the ocean with plenty of supplies for sixty people. Your lodge has only fifty members.
After your lodge is settled into the lifeboat your Noble Grand shouts “Ahoy me hearties! What be that off yonder starboard?” Astonishingly, there are one hundred people swimming toward your lifeboat. These people, who did not go down with the ship, now see your lifeboat as their rescue vessel. The swimmers are afraid they’ll drown, and they want in your lifeboat. If they all try and board everyone sinks.
The lodge might respond using one of two ideas: A) the idea of being “our brother’s/sister’s keeper”. However, Odd Fellowship teaches us about “universal brotherhood.” Therefore, all swimmers in the water are our brothers and sisters, so all must be saved. The next idea is B) “each according to her/his needs,” so only swimmers in greatest distress are allowed in the lifeboat. But, since all swimmers not allowed in the lifeboat will sink, all their needs are the same. So, they all must be saved.
When Odd Fellows choose either A or B, 100 people will get aboard the lifeboat, which will sink and everyone sinks with it.
Lodge members begin to ask questions about the situation involving only ten available lifeboat seats.
Which ten swimmers do you let aboard? How does your lodge decide who to choose? Does the lodge pick the best ten, the neediest ten, or “first come first served?” What will your lodge say to the ninety who aren’t allowed in?
You may think this example applies to who Odd Fellows might help in our communities, and you are correct. But it can also be applied in other situations our Order is facing.
For instance, how does this situation apply inside your lodge? Perhaps one group wishes to put up a website, post on Instagram, or use popular music during Initiation, and the group in the lifeboat believes there’s no need.
Similar examples may be applied to Grand Lodges and Sovereign Grand Lodge. There are many newer members who may become frustrated at the slow pace of change, and they see change is needed to advance the cause of Odd Fellowship. Others may be used to a slower and more deliberate pace.
Our growing Lodges and Grand Lodges are lifeboats and we must look to them for how to move toward the future. The swimmers are other Odd Fellows who want the Order to survive and flourish in the future. In Odd Fellowship, we must build plenty of lifeboats, because we’ll all surely sink without them.
Scott The Conductor
Scott Moye is an award winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folkore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas. He is a founder of Heart in Hand blog.