Friday, December 24, 2010

Creativity and Careful Writing Win Essays Every Time!

Here is the 2010 national winning essay for the 11th grade and above division in the Paul R. Kach DeMolay Essay Contest, written by Bro.  Jonathan T. Webster, from Langhorne, PA.  Jonathan, pictured below in a 2009 photo from the PMYF LifeSkills program, is a College Sophomore, and a PMC of Delaware Valley Chapter, Fairless Hills, PA. He is an Eagle Scout, is an accomplished juggler, and has attended and served on Staff at the LifeSkills Conference for a number of years.  His sister, Kathryn, is a Grand Officer for Pennsylvania Rainbow this year.

Topic:  DeMolay – The Premier Youth Organization

The big day had finally arrived – March 18, 2019. Accompanying me on my pilgrimage were my two young boys, Sam and Connor. My youngest, Connor, who was seven, asked, “Where are we going again?”

“Kansas City, Missouri,” I repeated, “for the DeMolay Centennial celebration.”

“Why Missouri,” he blurted out, not quite pronouncing the state’s name correctly.

“That’s where DeMolay began, son - founded by Frank Land - back in 1919.” Connor cocked his head to one side and shrugged slightly. Obviously, he didn’t fully comprehend what DeMolay was yet. I, on the other hand, had been in DeMolay since I joined as a young boy, back in 2004. Five years later, I was asked to start up a new chapter. I smiled as I thought back to the day I started with just one boy. It had been quite a challenge to grow from just one to over forty boys who were part of the chapter now. But DeMolay had taught me that anything that was worthwhile took time, and that it was the journey that was important rather than the destination. I had remained active as a Senior DeMolay and now served as Chapter Advisor. I had great plans for my two boys, and knew they would eventually join DeMolay when they came of age.

We were finally airborne, and Sam, who had just turned nine, was filled with questions. “So Dad, you want me to be a DeMolay someday, right?” he asked.

“I’d like you to, son. I am the man that I am today because of the values that I learned in DeMolay. DeMolay provided me with countless opportunities to learn about what is important in life. It also gave me the chance to be a leader and to help others along the way. The skills that I use now were developed and refined in DeMolay, and I’d like you to have those opportunities as well.”

“How did you get people to join DeMolay?” Sam asked.

I thought back to some of the things that my chapter had done to promote DeMolay as well as some of the changes I had seen over the past decade.

“Let me tell you what we did to make DeMolay a premier organization. Each year on the last Saturday in June, we held a national ‘Civic Pride Day.’ On that day, we did a bike tour called “Bike DeMolay.” We provided bike inspections, safety tips were taught by our local police force, and we led a bike tour of the community. Nonprofit organizations like our local homeless shelter and food pantries and groups like the veterans, the elderly, and the handicapped were invited to set up tables. We told people about the Masonic Learning Centers, the Chip program, and the Shriners Hospitals. A delicious barbecue lunch was served, and local bands provided music. We had a huge banner with our chapter’s name on it. Our local news stations, newspapers, and even our radio station promoted the day and helped us to get our name out.”

Sam thought for a moment and then asked, “You mean just one day a year was enough to let everybody know about DeMolay?”

“No, Sam. We did events throughout the year to let people know that we were service-oriented and wanted to do good things in our community. We held events each month, in addition to our Obligatory days, and always invited community members to join us. For example, we hosted a DeMolay Career Development Day where we invited Masons and Sr. DeMolays to talk about their professions. We offered workshops in resume writing, interviewing skills, and time management skills. These seminars received a lot of publicity and again, helped to let people know about DeMolay. Another way that we promoted our organization was to give presentations at our local Lodges, encouraging our Masonic family to introduce their children and grandchildren to DeMolay.”

I could tell that Sam was trying hard to process all of this information. “So does DeMolay still teach the same things that you learned when you were a boy?” Sam continued.

“The seven values or precepts will never change. But the way you learn them will be different.” I explained how I had just participated in an informal planning meeting via the Internet with webcams and software sharing technology. The current Master Councilor of our chapter was very technologically competent, and he incorporated his skills to further the cause. A day before I left he had explained a new idea to help brothers learn ritual work which included an elaborate light tracking system. I explained to Sam how paths of colored light shone on the carpet showing where each member of the ritual team was to walk. I outlined how we had personalized ritual work for each member, creating the best learning tool for memorization for each boy. One of our boys had learning disabilities but was able to learn visually. We filmed his parts of the ceremony so that he could watch his walking and talking parts over and over again. This encouraged him and he was able to learn and perform his part well. It had been a tremendous confidence builder for him. We also used social networks, which had evolved over the past decade, to send video slideshows of our fun activities out to our friends.

“That sounds amazing… I’m really starting to like DeMolay, Dad.”

“I’m glad, son, and I think you’ll like the event that we’ll be attending as well.”

DeMolay headquarters was crowded. Many had traveled great distances to pay tribute to Dad Land and the organization that he had started a century ago. The Grand Master took the podium and explained the day’s events. Finally, it was time to open the time capsule.

“Now the time has come that you all have been waiting for. This time capsule, which has been sealed for exactly 100 years to this day, will see sunlight once again. Gentlemen, if you please.” A large steel box was lifted out of the ground. Everyone waited in anticipation to see the treasure that lay within. “Now we will see the treasure that Dad Land intended for us to discover.”

The time capsule contained symbols for each of the seven precepts of our Order – a brick decorated in 24k gold leaf representing the foundation of a parent’s love for his or her children or ‘filial love’; a Bible with a cross embroidered on its cover as a symbol of a DeMolay’s reverence for sacred things; and an old parchment with quotes on courtesy from great leaders of the past. The Grand Master paused as he pulled out the fourth object. “This picture,” he said, as tears appeared in his eyes and he struggled to continue, “This picture represents comradeship, and it depicts the first nine members of the Order with Dad Land, the founder of DeMolay.” The last three objects included a sword, which stood for unyielding fidelity; a pure white silk scarf which represented cleanness of mind, body, and spirit; and finally, a symbol of a DeMolay’s patriotism - a flag that was torn and faded. It had been flown during World War I, and it represented all of the men who served our great nation and gave their lives in the ultimate act of sacrifice.

It was time to move on to the rest of the festivities, but I took a moment to reflect on the treasures that we had just witnessed.

“I realize it sounds strange, boys, but all of the items in the box are not really the treasure, you know.” Sam nodded his head thoughtfully as he contemplated what I was saying, but Connor appeared lost and confused.

“I don’t understand, Daddy,” Connor whispered. I bent down on one knee to his level and explained.

“The real treasure lives on in me and will become a part of you and Sam if you choose to join the Order. The seven cardinal virtues of DeMolay, which were represented by each of the items in the time capsule, represent the ultimate truth and cannot be broken. They will last for eternity. By becoming a DeMolay, these truths become a part of the men you will become.” Connor nodded, and I continued to walk.

“Dad, I really want to join DeMolay,” Sam stated. I stopped and reflected on my trip and the journey that Sam would soon embark upon. The bright future for DeMolay beckoned as I saw my sons continue the traditions that had become so much a part of my life. I smiled as I pictured my sons as young men who would preserve the traditions of DeMolay and continue along the path that I had traveled.

“I’m sure you will, Sam,” I smiled, “And I know that you will be an ambassador for DeMolay, just like I was. DeMolay will live on through you and Connor, and its legacy will forever remain as the premier organization for young men.”

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