With Odd Fellowship on the rise, I’ve noticed more and more people are looking for something. The usual things I have read or heard describe fraternal lodges as being populated by older gentlemen and women who tend to be part of a faithful group that have kept their fraternal traditions alive. I can tell you, as a 33 year old, that I see why. I am the youngest member of my lodge and proud of it. When my friends or family ask me why I am an Odd Fellow, I usually don’t have a quick response. I joined for many reasons. Some of the main ones I will share for those younger souls who find their path crossing the Order of Odd Fellows.
I remember a time where I was a member of numerous circles of friends. Each one had their own distinct identity. Each had its core group of friends. Some met up every weekend to listen to music or jam out with severely beaten instruments. Other groups only assembled for house parties, backyard shows, or ball games at a local park. Then you had your solid circles where everyone pretty much stayed in close communication with one another. They planned their outings and documented their adventures. Each of these groups offered their members a solid foundation of support. In one way or another each one provided something that most people nowadays have taken for granted: human interaction.
With the rise of Wi-Fi and mobile smart phones came the decline of in-person friendships and authentic human contact. I didn’t know what had happened until I found myself wondering what was missing. At one point I thought it was my career. Then 2008 came and I lost the job I saw providing something I thought I wanted but didn’t need. Then life took my attention as family and work took over my schedule. So I continued to go about still wondering why I just couldn’t find that sense of fulfillment. No matter how many friends or followers I had on social media, every time I looked back there was no one there. As my schedule slowly opened up I was able to use my biggest distraction to my advantage: I Googled fraternities.
That was the turning point. Many people my age have tons of things to distract us from what we are looking and longing for: true friendship. Unfortunately, as we get older, we tend to fall into the all-too familiar routine of work, school, home, phone/tablet. Yes, we text and face-time one another but these only took away from human’s basic needs, some of which are purpose and legacy. We all are looking for our place in this world but all the double-taps and swipes are keeping us from actually finding it. For me, legacy was another thing I did not know I yearned for till I became a little older. Having a family, I never realized before how much I am aware of what I will leave behind. I mean this not in terms of material assests but of memories and acts of kindness and charity. What do I want to be remembered for once I go to the next phase of this Grand Architect’s design?
This brings me back to Odd Fellowship. I joined because they offered the same things that our childhood friends offered, what our high school teams offered, what out Girl and Boy Scouts offered, or the military, or college, or chess club, or car club, or motorcycle club, or cycling club, weekend warrior groups offered: the sense of belonging. Odd Fellowship is like calling up a friend and shooting the crap—not because they posted a picture and blogged about current events—but because they caught the game and knew it was a better time than ever to rub it in your face how bad your favorite team is doing. It’s like being at work and realizing just how much you have in common with your older co-workers who, if it wasn’t for the job, you would have never spoken to. An Odd Fellows lodge is a magical place. Though currently the majority of our members are subscribers to AARP (if you know what I mean), it still can offer so much to people in my age group and younger and older. Odd Fellowship is timeless. It is ageless. No matter what century we are in, our values stay the same.
We look to better ourselves through bettering our community. This brings me back to legacy. Like my family who served in the Armed Services and those who serve as Public Servants, they do it to give back to their communities while filling a void; the same void that is filled every time we help someone in need or raise money to benefit our neighborhood kids, school, or charity. It is the same feeling as always being able to call someone and have someone answer on that first ring. It’s these aspects of life a younger me never thought about until the void became to big to ignore. So Odd Fellowship checks off these boxes. The friendships you make as an Odd Fellow will last long after we are gone. Odd Fellows have unique relationship with death. We understand that it is a part if life that is unavoidable. It is something many of us would like to forget until our time has come. But as Odd Fellows it is our reason for being Odd. We understand how precious our time is and how delicate that balance is. Even when one of us passes they are not forgotten. They are still apart of the group because the memories and friendships you build are built understanding that every minute dedicated to helping others through Odd Fellowship is a minute of our life we chose to dedicate to not just ourselves but our community as a whole. Because of that commitment we will never forget you and will always remember that you could have been anywhere and done anything but you chose to spend that time with us, helping each other.
The lodge itself shelters us from the elements but it is really the people inside who keep the perpetual fire alive. Odd Fellowship is much like the Force in Star Wars. It is everything and it is nothing. It can help one clear their mind and find their calling in life. And it can help guide our energy to something beneficial to others. Our symbols and rituals are simply a shared experience that cannot be mass-produced. It must be worked on and perfected. It is a labor of love, so anyone who is able to experience should understand that they are now apart of something that many simply will not understand. The plays and parables give us the light to find our way out of the darkness of loss ambition and blinding distractions. So if you every wondered what they do in an Odd Fellows lodge, do not hesitate to knock or send a message. Odd Fellowship is at a turning point where the lodges are what ever you would like them to be. Much like our teams, bands, groups, et cetera, it is a group experience and nothing is controlled by one person. So if you and your friends like to make short films why not join a lodge to share and perfect the craft? Part of a band? Why not join a lodge and network with other musicians from different walks of life but are well versed in the shared mission of Friendship, Love and Truth?
These are just some of the reasons I became an Odd Fellow: the warm feeling of friendship and camaraderie, the love of working towards a common goal and aspiration, or just learning to stay true to oneself through degree work and betterment of the community in which I live, as well as the one I chose to join with like-minded individuals in our respective lodges. We are all volunteers who understand that we not only pay our dues to help support our lodges and charities but also pay with our free time to better enrich the lives of others who may have everything in the world except an exceptional friendship, which Odd Fellowship graciously provides to those brave enough to seek it.
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