It’s 11:33 PM. The parking lot asphalt is unforgiving. My feet hurt.
I pull my phone out of my pocket and see 4 missed calls and 3 text messages from my better half. She hasn’t heard from me since 7 PM, and I’m usually home by now. My phone has been on silent since the first rap of the gavel.
I interrupt the Past Master I’m talking with. Our significant others are wondering where we are – mine has been in contact with his. That puts an immediate end to the conversation, we shake hands, jump in our cars and head for our respective homes. We’ve been the last two cars in the parking lot for almost an hour.
The meeting was over at 8:30 PM, I locked the front door to the lodge around 9:45 PM. It’s 11:42 PM, I grab my tuxedo jacket and bag out of the back of my car and unlock my front door. My feet still hurt.
By now, she’s used to me being at lodge late. It’s impossible for me to be anything but the last person to leave the lodge building after a meeting or practice. Tonight was definitely later than normal. There were district dignitaries present for the meeting and some big announcements were made. Not to mention the lodge room was ¾ full for the first meeting after the summer break. There was plenty of catching up with brethren and planning for the future to be done.
The man I was talking with in the parking lot is not only a Past Master of my lodge, he’s also my mentor and now one of my best friends. We met for the first time in 2013 when I joined and we’ve been helping each other grow ever since. He was Master when I joined in 2013, and again in 2015. I will be Master, God willing, in 2017. While I’m preparing for my year in the East, he’s also preparing for bigger and better things in Freemasonry in the coming years.
Most of our nights end up like this – chewing the fat in the parking lot. We bounce ideas off each other and discuss the current state of ourselves, our lodge and Freemasonry. Sometimes the conversations are ten minutes, others consume one hour or more. Sometimes there’s a crowd, but usually it’s just us. I’m surprised the neighbors haven’t complained.
We are both very dedicated to making the most of our time in this fraternity and being the best Masons we can be. I’m growing through his continued mentorship, I’d like to think he’s growing through my advice in return. These late-night-parking-lot conversations are our way of continually feeding each other for growth. We can expand on lessons taught from the meeting we just left and make plans for the next meeting while everything is still fresh in our heads.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say I’ve learned more about myself and Freemasonry in the parking lot than in the lodge building itself. And, to me, that’s alright. We teach lessons in the lodge room to be utilized, dissected and discussed outside of it, whether it’s in the recreation hall outside the lodge room, at home over dinner, or in the lodge parking lot. Continual growth is the name of the game, and finding someone to share and discuss these teachings with is paramount to that endeavor.
It’s 11:43 PM, I put my bag down in the office and hang up my tuxedo jacket. She asks if I’m OK and why I was later than normal tonight, I tell her I was in the parking lot after the meeting. She doesn’t even need to hear the rest of my story, she understands. She’s not worried anymore. She’s a better masonic lady than I deserve.
I text the Past Master, “you make it home alright?” He replies that he did. We thank each other for the conversation, wish each other a goodnight, and go back to our respective worlds. We’ll pick the discussion up another night, right where we left off, in the parking lot after lodge.
Bro. R. J. Hughes is the Senior Warden of Armstrong Lodge #239 in Freeport, PA and a Level One Scholar with the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Masonic Knowledge. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org