Monday, February 14, 2011

Clique-ing the Button

Whew! It's been an exhaustive week for me, but I'm glad to say that Convention 2011 is in perfect shape and Patriots Class went off without a hitch! It's always nice to have a productive few days with DeMolay, even if they do require some travel. As I sit here on Monday morning, I look back on the previous week in an effort to find a good topic to discuss. I am once again taken back to my Masonic Week experience. Unfortunately, that trip wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. I had some very poor interactions with the planners of that event. However, their attitudes reminded me of some important lessons. Let me start from the beginning...

Masonic Week is held at a very large hotel in Alexandria, VA - the Hilton Mark Center. As I had never been to this facility before I wanted to go early and check it out. So, after I got into town and settled on Tuesday night, I took "Dad" Panitzke with me and went exploring. As we enter the hotel we immediately see a group of fellows from Pennsylvania seated at a table. We great them and engage in some small talk. As I'm talking to them I notice that they have some regalia from the group I was intending to join. I asked the guys if they had already registered for the ceremony, thinking I might be able to get a head start on the process, which would save me some time in the morning. A gentlemen who I didn't recognize, responds a bit condescendingly with "Well, you would have had to go online to register. You can't just walk in and join." I then stated "Yes sir, I did that." He looks at me and says "Did you get the special invitation to join though?" To which I answer "Yes sir, I have that." He just looks at me blankly and says "Oh. Then you can register in the morning." At this point some of the PA guys jump in and tell me that I will have to register in the morning. Fair enough - that was all the information I was looking for. Being a bit grumpy after that experience, I decided that I should register for my meal ticket and see if there are any activities going on.

I wander over to the main registration desk and get in line. I register for my meal ticket and ask "Are there any hospitality suites or functions available this evening?" The two people sitting at registration look at each other and then one quickly responds with "Um, well, yeah... no, not that we know of." They then gave each other another look, leading me to believe that there were some events being held, but, because they didn't know me, I wasn't going to be given the information about them. I chalk this up to being the new guy and after a few minutes of milling about we decided to go back to "Dad" Panitzke's place to relax.

The next morning I got up and got to the hotel on time and registered for the ceremony. It was amazingly well performed and I greatly enjoyed the experience. Following the induction ceremony, another short ritual piece was held to constitute our new local body, Susquehanna Court No. 74. After another well performed ceremony the crowd broke up to head to lunch. I was standing in the room where the constitution ceremony had taken place and asked one of the other new members to take my picture in my new regalia. He did and then asked me if I would do the same, which I was glad to do. As he was fumbling with his phone, trying to get his camera set up, a guy walks into the room and points at each one of us and says "Are you here for the practice?" We all look at each other and I respond "No, we are just finishing up with the constitution ceremony." The man then responds angrily "Well you need to get out because have a practice we need to start." Not wanting a confrontation, I leave the room. Just as I exit the door, the other fellow who wanted me to take his picture gets his camera all set up and hollers at me to come back in and snap the photo. Thinking it will only take a few seconds, I re-enter the room and get in position to take the photo. As I do this, the man who came in and pushed us out looks at me and says "I thought I told you to get out once already. You need to leave or I am going to make your life miserable." Astonished at this statement, I quickly take the pic and leave. I couldn't believe that a Brother Mason would threaten me over standing in a room to take a picture. This was my last interaction with the organizers of this event. To say it left a bad taste in my mouth would be an understatement. Whomever that man was, I hope he (and the organizers of Masonic Week) know that it's because of him that I will be hard pressed to attend this event in the future. He ruined my first experience with the event and it's hard to break first impressions. I hope that they read this and realize just how poorly they treat some of their attendees.

Now, what does this long story have to do with DeMolay? As I wrapped up my week I was planning Convention 2011. Having just come off of my first experience with a new event, I was immediately struck with thoughts of how we can make our Convention the most friendly experience possible, especially for first time attendees. As we spend so much time around the DeMolay program, we can easily forget that new people don't know all the ins and outs. We can get frustrated with their lack of knowledge. We tend to ignore those we don't know. When we get together, it's easy to run off into our groups of friends, forgetting those who may  feel left out and unappreciated simply because they are new.

As a fraternal organization, it is the responsibility of every member and advisor to ensure that each and every person who attends a DeMolay function, whether it be a home Chapter meeting, a state sports tournament, or Convention 2011, feel like they not only matter, but are the most important guest in the world. When members don't come back we often wonder "Why?" I can tell you why! It's because they didn't feel appreciated, wanted, or that their wants and opinions mattered. I can assure you that Convention 2011 is going to be as "newbie" friendly as possible. Can you assure me that your Chapter is going to be the same way?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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