Yesterday I got a library card at the Somerville library. I have a Lynn library card, and a Boston library card, but even though I've lived in Somerville for nearly four years, I never got around to getting a library card.
It's still really snowy, and the streets aren't really cleared yet, so actual parking spaces are at a premium. There was a woman parked in two spaces right in front of the library. I backed up in my spot, and gently bumped into her. I got out, and approached her window and apologized, but informed her that she was taking up two spaces. I was expecting a confrontation, but she told me that her car died, and she couldn't move the car. She was fairly apologetic and sorrowful, even though I bumped into her.
After I got my card, I went back to my car, and she was still there. She beckoned me to her car. She asked me if I had jumper cables, which I did. I always keep jumper cables in my car, not only because my car has had problems starting sometimes, but because I like to help people. She had a Zipcar, a loaner car, and the Zipcar company could not come to her assistance with a jump for another two hours. She was a stranger in town, and pretty helpless.
I helped her with a jump, asked her if she needed any more help, and gave her a business card. She tried to pay me for helping her, but I refused. She took a twenty dollar bill, but it in my coat pocket, and leaped quickly away, and I didn't resist.
Before I was a mason, I might have drove away without apologizing for bumping her, because the impact wasn't very severe, and it was obvious that no damage was done. But with a "Massachusetts Freemason" sticker on the back windshield, and a 32nd degree Scottish Rite car emblem on the hatchback panel, I felt it would reflect badly on the fraternity to bump and run. I was tempted, when refusing her money, to tell her that as a mason, I felt obliged to come to her relief, but I felt that would have been a bit cheesy, and that actions speak louder than words anyway.
Please understand that, before I was a mason, I would have helped her with the jump and refused her money exactly the way I did. I think the kind of man who becomes a mason is the kind of person who feels that helping people is its own reward. I did take her money, but only after she made it really hard to reject her money. The influence masonry has had on me didn't make me help her without expectation of reward, since I would have helped her even before I was made a mason, but it did make me conscious that the honor of the fraternity was reflected in my behavior. Also, it's a genuine pleasure to meet monthly with a room full of men who all would have helped her without expectation of reward, all pledged to come to the relief of our brethren, their wives and children, and to others nearby whom we can help without harming ourselves. The more of us that hang out together, the more of a good influence we can be on each other. Masons can't make evil men good, but we excel at making good men better.