Shared with me by M.W. Bro, Stephen Godfrey, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon (Canada)
The story of Bill Toomey’s commitment to winning the Olympic Decathlon is a classic. In 1964, at the age of 25, Bill was competing in the Olympic Trials for the Decathlon, the most grueling event of the Olympics. The top three competitors from the trials would qualify for the Olympics, and Bill came fourth. The next day he was out running around the track. Some of the people who had watched him on the previous day asked, “Mr. Toomey, why are you training – you lost.” His response was, “I am training for the 1968 Olympics.” And in 1968 in Mexico City, it was Bill Tooney who had the gold medal placed around his neck. [ Burwash. P, (1998) The Key to Great Leadership – rediscovering the Principles of Outstanding Service. Torchlight Publishing, Los Angeles.]
Lincoln expressed Commitment to life as: “I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
Walter Cronkite said: “I cannot imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give this game of life everything he’s got.”
“Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach
I have heard commitment mentioned probably more than any other word, at Lodge Meetings, at coffee groups, District Meetings, Concordant Body meetings. Somehow the lack of commitment has brought many Masons to their proverbial knees as they see around them the decline of commitment in the work in Freemasonry and a deterioration of quality in their own lodges.
I believe the word does not appear in any part of ritual in the connotation that is being used here. In the first degree, the charge to the brother speaks of a commitment to God, to his neighbour and to himself. The obligations all speak of attending the lodge:
“…will answer and obey all due signs and summonses sent to me by a lodge of Entered Apprentices…” — a commitment. There is no language which says a Masons will commit to his lodge and will attend regularly. It is hinted at but is not the ‘law.’
Commitment is a personal attribute and is encouraged on all Masons perhaps more especially to those who choose to consider taking office in the lodge. The brother who does offer his services as an officer, of course, does so by choice; the brother decides by himself to commit.
Peter Drucker in his book, Managing the Non-profit Organization, discusses businesses that have a mission statement as a signpost of the direction that the company moves to. Often he notes that the Mission Statements tell clearly to the public the intentions of the organizations and yet the people of the group seem not to perform well. “Any group”, he says, “who wants to excel, needs competence in their people to take the Mission Statement and make it theirs and not the organizations only.” The company devise a set of words which tell the purpose of the employers and employees…all working to the same end – a promise or pledge.
Any Mason can be of valuable service to our organization and will need to internalize the philosophy of Masonry and make it his. When and only when that happens, do we begin to see Masons committed to our fraternity.
Our mission statement in Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon states:
“The Grand Lodge of BC & Yukon, as a parent organization of Freemasons, promotes and advances the Masonic Fraternity in this jurisdiction and serves as a support system to individual lodges by building a modern, dynamic organization with universal appeal and by creating a favourable climate for meaningful organizational change.”
…and we have had that mission statement approved since Grand Lodge of 1996. Commitment is needed for this mission statement to work.
Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that making and keeping commitments, even small commitments establishes an inner integrity that gives us the awareness of self-control and the courage and strength to accept more of the responsibility for our own lives. It is discipline. This develops the habit of effectiveness. Masonry offers opportunity to make and keep our commitments to our lodge and to ourselves.[p. 92,] And discipline gives us freedom.
Brethren who demonstrate commitment to our fraternity need to be treated with care and with love. Their personal desire to be a true and strong member of the fraternity makes them one of a few who join our ranks, who are needed, and who need support. Dudley Davis in his research work in the late 1980’s showed in his surveys that we still bring into our ranks plenty of Masons, but only a few, only 18%, will remain to run the lodges and keep the fraternity going. 82% will be happy to receive the degrees, to take away their certificate of membership, to hang it on a wall and pay dues for the rest of their lives, many of them never stepping foot into a lodge again. Their commitment is to themselves, and only to the fraternity as supporting it financially. All they want is to have the membership of the fraternity. Try taking it away and many will fight tooth and nail to hold onto their membership – a status symbol, a business lever? Who knows!!
So, brethren showing any commitment are rare and need our help to remain committed.
Several things need to be in place for that to happen.
First the environment; the lodge and its culture needs to be encouraging and friendly. Seeing unrest, uncertainty, others lacking commitment will surely make our committed brother seek other places to find his commitment recognized and acknowledged.
Second, there needs to be constant progression of knowledge (Education) for that desire to remain strong and motivation directed in a positive direction. Commitment does not continue when the same and repetitive work is expected of the brother.
Third, there needs to be some intangible rewards that come from this commitment. Acknowledgement of work done, of work accomplished, of effort shown has always to be demonstrated, not just a fast thank you from the East, but perhaps a letter or hand written note telling the brother that his work was appreciated. Even better would be a meeting with that brother and time spent with him to tell him how much his work was appreciated.
Commitment: promise, vow, pledge, obligation. This is what it is. We all made obligations. We made them in Freemasonry. And we are needing more to commit further to our fraternity, to be a working member who treasurers the love of the brotherhood and sees it as a means to developing the characteristic of effectiveness, which in time will spill over into his own live abundantly. We need brethren committed to keep the fraternity alive.
Bill Toomey had a deep desire to win, to be the best. That internal force that he felt was sufficient for him to go out and continue to practice, to gain strength, to improve skills, and advance his confidence.
Commitment creates effectiveness. Effectiveness creates pro-activeness. Being pro-active allows us to live fulfilled lives.
To the reader, whether they may be Freemasons or not, our world is made up of commitments whether they be at home, at work or within a fraternity.
The challenge that really faces us is “are we as good as our word”
Have a wonderful Day & God Bless