By Walter Boomsma
Oopsie! When I went to post February’s column, I noticed that somehow January’s appeared in the Bulletin but never got posted to the site… So here it is! February’s is coming soon!
“It is now the Fourth Degree, in the Grange, on the farm, and in our lives… In winter, the season of rest from active toil, we sit down with our families, our friends and neighbors, and enjoy together the good things our labors in the lower degrees have brought us. So also in old age we enjoy the fruits of a well-spent life, surrounded by friends, and in a happy home.”
The Steward encourages the candidates to remember that “it is in the home that we enjoy the fruits of our labors in the fields of the farm and the fields of life.” For those of us who live in Maine, winter does seem to encourage us to spend more time in our homes. Our modern technology and conveniences may, however, mean that we spend less time “enjoying the fruits of a well-spent life” and more time watching television or using our I-Pad to check social media sites.
The Fourth Degree is perhaps a degree of reflection. When I read the above passage, my eyes and mind focused on the phrase “old age” and for some reason I connected it to this quote I recently used in a presentation:
“One curious thing about growing up is that you don’t only move forward in time; you move backwards as well, as pieces of your parents’ and grandparents’ lives come to you and stay with you.”
Life is about movement and it there are interesting parallels as we “move” through the degrees—with life and the seasons of the year. Most Grangers know that each degree represents a season and the degrees themselves are progressive. In an interesting way, one of the continued challenges for our organization often centers around the word “progress.”
While I’m far from an expert, I’m “working my way through the degrees” as part of these ongoing columns. If you haven’t tried it, I can assure you that curling up with a Grange Manual on a cold winter night can be a very relaxing and rewarding experience.
As I move through the manual, I can find nothing that bans progress and change—quite the contrary, actually. I also find nothing that requires us to abandon the past. But I do see much about growth and movement. Even in this passage, we are encouraged to enjoy the fruits of our labors both in the fields of the farm and fields of life.
One curious thing about the life of our Grange is that we aren’t just moving forward in time; we are moving backwards as well, as pieces of our past come to us and stay with us.
The Fourth Degree is also about fidelity and friendship. It also contains one of my favorite teachings. The Overseer tells the candidates to “…look with earnest solicitude upon children and their welfare; and remember that they are to follow in our footsteps and occupy our positions. If we desire to encourage them to love rural life, we must make its labors cheerful. What a child sees makes the most lasting impression. We may tell them of the pleasures and independence of the farmer’s life; but if their daily intercourse with us shows it to be tedious, irksome, laborious, without any recreation of body or mind, they will soon lose all interest in it and seek employment elsewhere…”
Application of Grange teaching has a wondrous aspect in that the lessons can be applied in so many different ways. I challenge you to reread the Overseer’s lesson and change the word “children” to “others” and the words “rural” and “farmer” to “Grange” and “Granger.” It would sound like this:
“…look with earnest solicitude upon others and their welfare; and remember that they are to follow in our footsteps and occupy our positions. If we desire to encourage them to love Grange life, we must make its labors cheerful. What another sees makes the most lasting impression. We may tell them of the pleasures and independence of the Granger’s life; but if their daily intercourse with us shows it to be tedious, irksome, laborious, without any recreation of body or mind, they will soon lose all interest in it and seek membership and friendship elsewhere…”
Quotations from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange.