By Ainslie Heilich, PG
Depending on the history you subscribe to, 300 years ago when the original Odd Fellows came about, it was because they were made up of men from the smaller or lesser skilled trades with no guild, or if it was just “Odd” to help people other than immediate family. Then what does it mean today? How are we connected to that past? There are hundreds of charitable organizations that do great work today, so what still makes us so ODD?
For the past decade, the Order has been attracting all sorts of people that been traditionally viewed as being on the “fringes” of “normal society”.
People like artists, tattooers, people with lots of tattoos and piercings, musicians, bikers, barbers, people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, addicts in recovery, eccentrics, nerds, people with social anxiety, people on the Autism Spectrum, etc. People that under a lot of circumstances today would be judged by the more straight laced world at large until they could prove themselves otherwise.
These people are the ones that are adopting the Lodge as their chosen families. By forming a more diverse Lodge we are creating a real world version of the idealized 80s trope of the underdog team (often kids) who join forces and combine their unique talents to go on a great adventure and save the day. Or they overcome a great oppressor and learn more about themselves and unlock their true potential in the process. But it is always done as a team, and no one is left behind. Sounds pretty identical to what the Odd Fellows are taught in the Degrees.
The Degrees take us on that adventure, we start off unsure of what the path is and in the dark but we work through our reluctance because we know the journey is important. We eventually learn the value of having good friends to help us along the way because no one can go on an adventure alone, no matter how strong we are. In turn, help also help our friends in their time of struggle as well, and by the end after using teamwork and special talents to defeat the enemy. We finally unlock some greater wisdom and find the literal or figurative treasure we have been seeking and overcome our human desire to use it for personal gain but for pure purposes of helping others
If you can’t tell if I’m talking about the Degrees or Goonies/IT/Bad News Bears/Stand By Me/The Princess Bride/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/The Sandlot/Stranger Things/(which all goes back to the “hero’s journey” of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey) then you see why it is so appealing. The new Odd Fellows have been dreaming of this adventure since childhood.
This is the future of meaning of the Odd Fellows. We are the rag tag kids, the underdogs, the forgotten ones, the outcasts, the ones who will stand up for justice and against oppression. While we aren’t slaying monsters or finding treasure maps in the attic… we are still dreamers and want to be a part of something special. Something that values every member, and gives us an experience that can’t be bought and the power to lift others up. We understand what it is like to be the last one picked to be on the team. So we made our own damn team.
We are Odd Fellows! And Odd Fellows never say Die! Oh wait, that was the Goonies.