“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
~ Brother Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
“So, I see we have something in common already,” said the man as he exited his car and walked casually up the driveway toward me.
Well, it certainly doesn’t seem to be showing up for an appointment on time, I thought to myself. He was twenty minutes late already. “Oh, really?” I asked, this time aloud. “How so?”
“Well, for one, I see that we’re both traveling men,” he said pointing to the back of my car and smiling. Ah, that’s right. I have both a Past Master’s emblem and a Scottish Rite crest on the trunk lid, advertising my Masonic background to those inquiring minds who recognize such things. He’s got me there.
And so he did. Though I had never said a word to this gentleman in annoyance, I certainly had thought it. But once we began talking, all of that disappeared. This man whom I had just met was my Brother, and deserved better. The appointment went well, we had a great conversation, and parted as friends. It was only later as I replayed the incident over in my mind did I come to the realization that I had been wrong all along. I didn’t just owe a good and friendly attitude to the man simply because he was a Mason - I owed it to him simply because I was a Mason.
The term “traveling man” is most likely a reference for an ancient stonemason, who would travel great distances in search of work. Often times, this would involve journeys to neighboring lands, where the worker was unknown or unfamiliar with local customs. In such instances, could the man in search of work afford to be arrogant or surly? Of course not. He constantly needed to be mindful of his greatest commodity - himself. That, friends, made him an ambassador.
And we are no different. It’s almost expected to see Masonic ties, rings, lapel pins, and other adornments at Lodge events in the United States. In fact, we’re almost cavalier with the fact that we drape ourselves in the trappings of the greatest Fraternity on earth and forget to live like what we so boldly profess to be. Brethren, to travel is to expand your mind; experience new sensations; meet new people; step outside of your comfort zone; to see the world from a different perspective. As Twain said, it is a means of casting off the mundane trappings of your usual surroundings and drinking in something new. But don’t forget that equally as important as being a Masonic ambassador when traveling in different jurisdictions, is being that same Masonic ambassador on your own turf. Those Masonic emblems are still on your car (mine, too) when you cut someone off in traffic and offer them that special salute as you pass. You’re still wearing that ring and that tie when you’re grumbling about dues or speaking unkindly about someone behind his back. Remember, you don’t stop being a Freemason simply by going home. I have been approached on the job because of the emblem on my car; in a restaurant in another state because of the symbol on my shirt; on an airplane because of the ring on my finger. And each time I felt like an ambassador for Freemasonry, and was proud to play that part. Brethren, every time you put on Masonic dress, be it a tie, a jewel, or an apron, you are acting as a Masonic ambassador, whether you are in your home Lodge, or in some faraway jurisdiction. But you are also a Masonic ambassador when you’re at work, on vacation, or at home with family and friends. The Lodge in your heart, where you were first made a Mason, is always with you, and you should represent it proudly.
Remember the words of the Closing Charge: “And these generous principles are to extend farther. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. So that we enjoin it upon you: do good unto all, while we recommend it more especially to those who are of the household of the faithful.”