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From the East

By Andrew Hawes —Master

Brethren and Friends,

I’ll touch on three topics in this month’s article.

“Everyone goes to the beach in July!” 

To those of us living in the northern hemisphere, thoughts of July include warm sun, hot temperatures, and kids at the beach instead of in school – but for someone who has grown up in the far southern hemisphere- say, Argentina- July is a cold winter month, associated with snow, freezing temperatures and bundling up to go out. Our experiences shape our perceptions and assumptions - before we call the person talking about ice skating on their pond in July crazy, for example, we should ascertain where this pond lies – perhaps the pond to which they allude was behind their childhood home, in Argentina… which brings us to topic number two.

“July!” “No, really I’m telling the truth…”

The False Consensus effect, or consensus bias, causes people to assume that their own experiences, choices and judgements are common and appropriate. We should always question our own assumptions, and verify our opinions with multiple sources of information beyond our own limited experiences, particularly when forming strong opinions. For us to assume that everyone’s experience is similar to ours opens us up to foolish overconfidence and easily avoided misunderstandings.  When someone else voices an opinion about something that you believe to be wrong, don’t call them a liar- ask them what makes them feel that way, and perhaps you can learn something new yourself.  And finally…

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Ok, this last one isn’t related to the month, and it’s a theme I’ve voiced before – we all should keep working to make the world a better place for everyone in it.

I was recently waiting to return some equipment at the Xfinity store, and a man ahead of me was trying to pay his bill using cash. Unfortunately, the store’s cash system was down. They couldn’t take cash. He would have to travel to a different location where they were set up to accept cash payments, and so on. 

He was somewhat distraught and flustered, just trying to pay his bill to keep his cell phone operating, and kept asking if there was some way they could take his cash, instead of requiring a card. The bill was only $9.95… but the man only had cash, and they wouldn’t take it. As I watched and listened to this, I thought to myself – how would I feel in his situation? Having already made his way to the store to pay his bill, he was going to have to get in his car again, drive somewhere else and wait on a line there to try again. I could envision how that would make me feel – it would be frustrating and annoying. …so I leaned in and said to the man and the customer service rep: “I have a card, I can help.” The surprise and gratitude that was expressed to me for this simple act seemed out of proportion in my mind to what I had done, but did cement in my mind that I had done the right thing. I have been in situations where I need to do something that should have been simple, and yet was not. I didn’t enjoy them. I saw the opportunity to take an action – a simple action – which would make a positive difference in the world, so I did it. Had I thought about it more, I could have saved myself $10 in the process, as I had no change, and the man had only a $20- but I hadn’t calculated out how to help without cost to myself, and didn’t want my help to cost anyone else- that would have defeated the purpose. My offer helped to resolve the situation, made the man happy, made the customer service rep happy, sped my process through the chore of returning the equipment, and made me feel good about myself. 

It was $10 well spent, in my mind.

So this month, and every month, try to make a positive difference in the world. Hold the door for someone who has their hands full. Offer to carry someone’s bag up the stairs if they seem to be struggling with it.   If opportunity doesn’t present itself, make your own opportunity. Pick up a piece of trash from the sidewalk and throw it in the garbage. Bring in the neighbor’s garbage cans from the curb. Be a good person, feel good about yourself, and share that feeling with others. This is part of our commitment, as Masons.


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