Thanks to Ill. Bro. John Rhodes for this story and reflection on a long-standing tradition that may be changing…
There it was, I did not anticipate it and as a matter of fact have been avoiding it, I walked up to my poolside friend friend, Pete, to talk about our upcoming tee time. Without thinking, and instinctively, almost as a reflex, there it was right in front of me.
Pete was a Mason, from the southern jurisdiction, now living in New Jersey. He had noticed my Scottish Rite ring last year, and thus began a new friendship, and many masonic stories. Pete was Greek and spoke with soft tones and with a Jersey accent, but he loved to play golf and like me was tired of the quarantine and isolation that comes with it. We were both anxious to get out, to get away for a few hours, and hit the links.
As I walked up to Pete, he smiled and out came his right hand. It was unanticipated, and yes, without thinking, and without disinfectant, I accepted his warm greeting. We knew better, both of us. We were wintering in Florida, when the virus struck our nation, until then, we had both been enjoying the sunshine, and saltwater, and poolside chats. He like I, had been raised in a time, when attending a lodge function, or meeting a new friend, you shook hands. My own father gave me lessons on the proper way to shake a man’s hand, we practiced on each other, it was a sign of manhood, of respect, it sealed the deal! “A firm handshake is a sign of character!”, he would say, and “You don’t try to crush someone’s hand, but don’t ever give him a wet fish either!”, and the most impressive lesson, “You shake the hand of every Mason in your lodge room!”
It made perfect sense in 1975, to get married in the middle of a quarter of undergrad study, and live in an $85 a month hole in the wall apartment. I interviewed, with Howard, then starting up a machine/ instrument shop on the Wright State campus. Howard needed an assistant, a gopher, someone to help organize, and clean up, and perhaps learn simple machining. I got the work study job, and learned many lessons from the old machinist, lessons that helped carry me through the rest of my education and through life. One day, after some months of working together, Howard asked me if I knew why he had hired me? I confessed ignorance, and Howard replied that it was because of my handshake. You came in for your interview and you shook my hand, others had interviewed before me, “But your handshake was quick, and not weak!” After graduation and 35 years of life, I again was reunited with my old friend Howard. I thanked him for giving me that much needed opportunity, and am grateful to have been able to enjoy a couple of suppers together with him before his passing.
Pete and I stopped, and picked up Billy on our way to the course. Bill also came from a masonic family, and so we enjoyed a great day of conversation and brotherhood on the golf course. Yes, we all shook hands, and probably stood too close, and occasionally picked up each other’s club or golfball. We knew better, and yes we also shared hand cleaner and wipes, after our round.
I suppose this is our new dilemma, do we act like we don’t know each other? Is handshaking a thing of the past? Are we doomed if we shake a friend’s hand? I guess we shall find out. I myself, will try to get use to carrying and using hand sanitizer more often. The handshake will be hard to unlearn!
Persevere my masonic friends.