Can you do without human sympathy?
Humanitarianism is the view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity. Humanitarians work towards advancing the well-being of humanity as a whole. It is the antithesis of the “us vs. them” mentality that characterizes tribalism. Humanitarianism drives people to save lives, alleviate suffering, and promote human dignity. Humanitarianism is embraced by movements and people across the political spectrum. (paraphrased Wikipedia)
You need to ask yourself this: “Am I more of an “us vs them” Odd Fellow or am I more of a humanitarian Odd Fellow? Do you believe everyone should pull themselves up by their OWN “bootstraps” without help from others or do you think that each situation is different and that sometimes people are jobless, poor, sick, and distressed through no fault of their own? Do you spend time yelling at the TV or computer or sending out endless Facebook memes deriding “those people,” who happen to be a different religion, skin color, or social class?
If your an “us vs them,” person you’re probably in the wrong organization.
By every definition in our ritual and code, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a humanitarian organization. And you cannot be a good Odd Fellow unless you support our humanitarian views. It does not matter what your beliefs are politically, economically, or socially, but you must understand that when it comes to helping others you absolutely MUST toss out your “us vs them” mentality and help. It does not matter if they are White, Black, Native, Asian, Muslim, Male, Female, Gay, Transgender, or
Straight. It does not matter if they are poor, are toothless, are addicts, are homeless or anything else. It doesn’t matter if they are a protester from the “other side–” if they are hurt or in distress you are obligated to drop your own protest and help them (if it’s safe to do so).
During the American Civil War, there was an Odd Fellow who was suspected of being a spy by both sides. Why? Because he ministered to any Odd Fellow he was aware of that was wounded or sickened during the war. He is also the same man who, no matter if they were Rebel or Yank, returned the bodies of Odd Fellows killed in battle to their families for burial. This brother risked being arrested as a spy and possible execution to fulfill his oaths. Are you prepared to do this?
As an Odd Fellow, you are called to help. You took an oath to support our Order and that involves helping the distressed and sick and promoting universal brother and sisterhood. There is no turning away from the lessons of the oaths, the lectures, the emblems, the degree work, and our humanitarian beliefs and calling yourself an Odd Fellow.
Yes, as humans we make mistakes (me too, Lord knows). And when we get angry we often shoot the verbal or emotional arrows that will pierce the deepest into our opponent. Do you not think the arrows fired by Jonathan didn’t emotionally stab and eviscerate both David and Jonathan? Because to me, that’s what those arrows represent: hatred. The hatred of Saul and his times which prevented David and Jonathan from continuing their friendship. The triumph of hatred over love.
So when we are angry, in our temporary rage we say things, we do things, we post Facebook memes that wound and that hurt. We type out our anger to others or yell at coworkers or our loved ones. We shoot the arrows as deeply as we can. We attack others so they cry “white blood” (tears) from deep emotional wounds . We cause them to lose hope and force their children into weeping isolation. This is not Odd Fellowship.
Admittedly, like every human, I get pissed off too. I make mistakes and I’ve said awful things from time to time.
But the difference is the ability to ask forgiveness and to feel guilt for your behavior. The knowledge to realize that your particular reaction was or is wrong. That even though they may be a different skin color or religion or political party or even an asshole, your response was too much and made things worse. You realize that you cannot have an “us vs them” mentality because it makes you ill and hurts others. You call to mind the notions that “no man can hurt another without hurting himself” or of “Judge not lest ye be judged.” If you are capable of seeing these things, you are in fact, a good person, a humanitarian, and an Odd Fellow.
But, if you have the mentality of thinking you are separate from other humans; that you can hate, refuse to help, laugh at and bully people because of their “otherness,” you need to review the lesson of the Good Samaritan, because it’s all right there. And we see who the hero was: the one who helped, not those who saw the beaten victim as “the other,” or “us vs them.” In fact those who passed the wounded stranger on the road have been reviled by humans for centuries. Is that what you wish for yourself, to be reviled for centuries? If, “us vs them” is your view of life you need to do this one simple thing: consider leaving the Order. Because you are not an Odd Fellow.
Humanity has its political divisions, religious divisions, racial divisions, economic divisions, class divisions–and on and on. OUR job is to not exacerbate these divisions, but to help heal them.
After much consideration I’ve decided to ask this question: have we, over the last number of years, recruited members with an “us vs them” life view? Have we recruited those who refuse to acknowledge that all people fall on hard times in spite of their best efforts? Have we recruited those who may not help others based upon skin color, gender, religion, etc? Because if we have, that may be ONE reason our membership numbers are suffering.
Further: members of this type aren’t helping the Order be successful. They really aren’t “into” being an Odd Fellow. Maybe they like being part of an Order that has secrets, or like to impress others with their secret knowledge . But they aren’t recruiting, trying to start lodges, or leading the charge against poverty, violence, and bigotry. Instead, they encourage it.
You know, people can smell a rat–and if they feel our Order is full of those with a bigoted world view they won’t join. They’ll believe our claims of universal sisterhood are false. Many potential members will see IOOF as a humanitarian organization. But they aren’t going to join if they see our membership well equipped with the arrows of tribalism, an “us vs them” mentality and over the top “bootstrappery.” Its easy to see that in some cases some of our membership doesn’t match our philosophy.
If you know brothers and sisters like this, it falls upon YOU to correct them. Lead them again down the road to Jericho, and let those who have eyes see and those who have ears hear.
Understand I am not advocating throwing good money after bad. Bankrupting your lodge because you’re trying to help a local person get their life together when they refuse to use your help to better themselves is not really helping someone. But as an organization, we must fully embrace what we’re called to do, we must be seen doing it, and we must be serious in our efforts.
Can YOU do without human sympathy?
Scott Moye is an award-winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folklore. 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, and a founder of Heart In Hand Blog.