“The Styrofoam Cup” by Bro. Nicholas Harvey

The following article was created for Episode 4 of Three Distinct Knocks. That episode can be found here: https://youtu.be/YjR-q7II_NI

I’ve visited quite a few lodges spanning a few different jurisdictions, and it’s always intriguing to get a sense of the personality of the lodge “from the outside”. Are they more social or serious? Are there cliques and circles, or does everyone genuinely long for the fellowship with the other brethren? Are GOAT jokes prevalent, or is the candidate’s initiatory experience the most important thing on the planet at that moment?

One of the driving factors of what shapes a lodge is how the Worshipful Master runs his year in the East. Elevated to the highest honor within the lodge, his duty is to ensure the craft is set to work on ensuring participation, education, fellowship, and membership increases while things like cliques and lodge politics decrease, allowing the lodge to prevail with peace and harmony. He is to preserve the history of this ancient and accepted fraternity, while ensuring the cement of brotherly love binds us together far into the future.

RW Walter Hunt, from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, has a quote from his video on leadership that sums it up nicely: “…when he’s done, he puts his tools down, and somebody else picks them up. And if he did a good job, if he has built his part of the wall (metaphorically speaking), well enough, when somebody picks up those tools, they get to build on what you did. They don’t have to fix what you didn’t do”.

Unfortunately, whether elected or appointed, some members of our fraternity let the title go to their head. They believe that somehow, they’re “above” cleaning another dirty plate or joining an investigation committee because it’s “not his job” anymore.

Early last year I was in a public place and bumped into a 50 yr Mason that has been a Past Master, Past Right Worshipful, DDGM, etc. Nice guy. He was with his wife and I was with my fiancé, so I made introductions. He raised his hand, stopped me, and said “…it’s Right Worshipful”

I stopped, smiled, and continued introducing them using their first and last names. We
were in public, not lodge. And my Fiancé has zero reason or care to call him a Right Worshipful.

On the complete other side of that experience, a very dear friend of mine has received some of the highest honors and titles available in Masonry, but he has never introduced himself by anything other than “Brother Name”. I asked a few of his friends if they knew of those honors, to which they were confused and said “Him? Are you sure? He’s never said anything and I’ve been friends with him for years!”

Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why”, explains this well. He begins:

“A former Secretary of Defense gave a speech at a large conference. He took his place on the stage and began talking, sharing his prepared remarks with the audience. He paused to take a sip of coffee from the Styrofoam cup he’d brought on stage with him. He took another sip, looked down at the cup and smiled.

“You know,” he said, interrupting his own speech, “I spoke here last year. I presented at this same conference on this same stage. But last year, I was still an Under Secretary,” he said. “I flew here in business class and when I landed, there was someone waiting for me at the airport to take me to my hotel. Upon arriving at my hotel,” he continued, “there was someone else waiting for me. They had already checked me into the hotel, so they handed me my key and escorted me up to my room. The next morning, when I came down, again there was someone waiting for me in the lobby to drive me to this same venue that we are in today. I was taken through a back entrance, shown to the greenroom and handed a cup of coffee in a beautiful ceramic cup.”

“But this year, as I stand here to speak to you, I am no longer the Under Secretary,” he continued. “I flew here coach and when I arrived at the airport yesterday there was no one there to meet me. I took a taxi to the hotel, and when I got there, I checked myself in and went by myself to my room. This morning, I came down to the lobby and caught another taxi to come
here. I came in the front door and found my way backstage. Once there, I asked one of the techs if there was any coffee. He pointed to a coffee machine on a table against the wall. So, I walked over and poured myself a cup of coffee into this here Styrofoam cup,” he said as he raised the cup to show the audience.

“It occurs to me,” he continued, “the ceramic cup they gave me last year . . . it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a Styrofoam cup”. “This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you,” he offered.

“All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which eventually you will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a Styrofoam cup.”

These humbling words can remind us that no matter what our title is, we are primarily “brothers”. We are to meet upon the level and part upon the square.