Masonry teaches us that each person has a responsibility to make things better in the world. Most individuals won’t be the ones to find a cure for cancer, or eliminate poverty, or help create world peace, but every man and woman and child can do something to help others and to make things a little better. Masonry is deeply involved with helping people — it spends more than $1.4 million dollars every day in the United States, just to make life a little easier. And the great majority of that help goes to people who are not Masons.
Some of these charities are vast projects, like the Crippled Children’s Hospitals and Burns Institutes built by the Shriners. Also, Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of over 100 Childhood Language Disorders Clinics, Centers, and Programs. Each helps children afflicted by such conditions as aphasia, dyslexia, stuttering, and related learning or speech disorders. Some services are less noticeable, like helping a widow pay her electric bill or buying coats and shoes for disadvantaged children. And there’s just about anything you can think of in-between. But with projects large or small, the Masons of a lodge try to help make the world a better place. The lodge gives them a way to combine with others to do even more good.
Masonry does things "inside" the individual Mason. "Grow or die" is a great law of all nature. Most people feel a need for continued growth and development as individuals. They feel they are not as honest or as charitable or as compassionate or as loving or as trusting as they ought to be. Masonry reminds its members over and over again of the importance of these qualities. It lets men associate with other men of honor and integrity who believe that things like honesty and compassion and love and trust are important. In some ways, Masonry is a support group for men who are trying to make the right decisions. It's easier to practice these virtues when you know that those around you think they are important, too, and won't laugh at you. That's a major reason that Masons enjoy being together.
Masons enjoy each other's company. It's good to spend time with people you can trust completely, and most Masons find that in their lodge. While much of lodge activity is spent in works of charity or in lessons in self-development, much is also spent in fellowship. Lodges have picnics, camping trips, and many events for the whole family. Simply put, a lodge is a place to spend time with friends.
For members only, two basic kinds of meetings take place in a lodge. The most common is a simple business meeting. To open and close the meeting, there is a ceremony whose purpose is to remind us of the virtues by which we are supposed to live. Then there is a reading of the minutes; voting on petitions (applications of men who want to join the fraternity); planning for charitable functions, family events, and other lodge activities; and sharing information about members (called "Brothers", as in most fraternities) who are ill or have some sort of need. The other kind of meeting is one in which people join the fraternity — one at which the "degrees" are performed.
But every lodge serves more than its own members. Frequently, there are meetings open to the public. Examples are Ladies' Nights, "Brother Bring a Friend Nights", public installations of officers, Cornerstone Laying ceremonies, and other special meetings supporting community events and dealing with topics of local interest. Masons also sponsor Ladies groups such as The Order of Eastern Star and Amaranth, and Youth Groups such as Triangle, Rainbow, Constellation, Job's Daughters; for girls, and Order of DeMolay for Boys.