Moving from Boston to Florida was about as different to me as moving from the United States to any other country. First was snow, which I wasn’t used to. Then the Public Transportation, one way streets, and people from every corner of the globe replaced the beach, the sun, and the Jimmy Buffet loving, sandle wearing, 5 o’clock somewhere locals.
I felt odd wearing a suit and tie so early on a Saturday morning, but nonetheless I walked into the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts after having made a phone call a few weeks prior and telling them that I was interested in learning more about Freemasonry. I didn’t know anyone in this state and desperately didn’t want to turn into a hermit. As soon as I walked in someone in a bow-tie (which stood out because up until that point I had never actually seen anyone wearing one) walked up to me with his hand out and a smile on his face. He introduced himself as Jeff. I probably said something stupid. Looking past him was a room full of guys in suits. Little did I know at the time that this man would set such a beautiful foundation for me and masonry. Never before had I felt so welcomed or shook so many hands. I felt like the President. People were coming up to me and introducing themselves. Someone walked me over to the buffet table and made a plate for me. Jeff walked me through how this would go: I’d meet with the different lodges, and whichever I felt good about, I’d ask for more info. “Only pick two or three, and only if your heart agrees” he calmly said. It would turn out to be such a hard decision. I’d walk over to each lodge’s table, set up around the perimeter of the large room we were in, and ask them about their lodge, the goals, the personality. After some time, I visited the buffet table again and sat down. Jeff came over and could tell I was overwhelmed. “Everyone seems so awesome!” I said. He laughed and gave me advice that I would reiterate to every prospective candidate that I’d meet in the future: “Everyone is a puzzle piece..” he began. And that I need to find the lodge that needs me as much as I need them. They all had great qualities, but I ultimately picked two. Both lodges I chose called me and invited me to a dinner the following week or so. The first lodge I’d always refer to as “the Great Gatsby lodge”. The fellowship, the fun, and the food were so over the top. Guys dressed “to the nines” and didn’t have a care in the world except for the other guys in that room. Within the first 5 minutes I felt like I had known these guys forever.
The second lodge had a more toned down event where the lodge members would get to know the handful of guys who wrote down their name that day. Again, I felt like I was at home. I told them I wanted to join their lodge and they said after the event they’d make their decision on which 3 out of the many guys that night they would choose.
A phone call followed up and congratulated me on being accepted. I needed to meet with them and fill out some paperwork. Jeff was with me every step of the way. He was always available and answered every one of the 600 questions I had. I enjoyed our friendship- if he was a Mason, then I was 100% sure I wanted to be a Mason too.
The application had a line on it, titled something along the lines of “sponsor”. I called Jeff and he said that someone in the lodge would have to vouch for me, but that the person would only sign if they knew me. Someone who had gotten to know me and who I was inside and out. “Jeff, that’s why I’m trying to join Masonry. I don’t know anyone!”
“Nobody? You haven’t spent time and gotten to know anyone?” he said. His voice reflecting a smile through it’s tone.
“Ah! Would you sign for me?”
“I’d love to”. Words cannot describe what Jeff became since I had met him and his bow-tie that Saturday morning. We did everything together. Birthdays, holidays, funerals, hiking, kayaking, and eating. Lots of eating. We spoke and texted each other every day. At one point, my girlfriend at the time admitted that she thought “Jeff” was a girl and that I was cheating on her. I laughed, but she had a valid point.
I’d visit the lodge and hang out with the guys after their meeting until midnight or later. I’d meet many guys and develop a great friendship. Although not yet initiated, I felt as if I needed nothing more- I was happy for the first time in a very long time. I felt needed, appreciated, and valued by men of all ages and all backgrounds. I don’t remember much about the night of my initiation, other than that I must have went to the bathroom 20 times. The guys from the lodge were very warm and welcoming and ensured us we were in good hands and that there was nothing therein contained that we should be afraid of.
The Sponsors for the other candidates were all prepping their guys for what would unfold that evening. I didn’t see Jeff though, and that made me nervous. When he finally came running out to say hi to me, he told me to find a quiet corner and to meditate. To shut down everything outside of these walls and to just focus on being “present”. Jeff said good-bye and was whisked into the lodge room. There I stood with 4 other candidates, about to get initiated. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew that wherever we went on this journey, we’d go together.