|WBro. Jimmy Harris, Past Master of Faribault Lodge No. 9|
I was born an addict. My mother and father both used drugs and suffered all the consequences associated with that. My father left when I was five and went on to become a very low bottom drunk/addict. He was a hobo and worked as a carnie with several amusement companies before his addictions finally made him unsuitable for even that. Although he did eventually gain ten years of sobriety, he threw that away and died a drunk at the age of fifty-two. My mother, sometime after my father left us, turned to prostitution to support her heroin habit. After several moves, we found ourselves in Homestead, Florida. My two brothers and I (all under 8 years of age) were left alone for long periods of time to fend for ourselves. One day a neighbor noticed some bruises on my youngest brother’s back and legs left on all of us from my mother’s Marine Corps lover/supplier. That night we were removed from my mother’s care and spent the next two years in various foster homes in Dade County. (This was more than a decade before the name change to Miami-Dade in 1997.) Following much effort on the part of my maternal grandparents, we were adopted by them in August of 1984. We moved to a very small farming community called Beaumont, Kansas where I had a troubled youth and young adulthood. I found myself making many mistakes and having to come to terms with my own addictions. I completed my last in-patient treatment on December 13, 2004 and was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason that night in Star of the East Lodge #33 Owatonna, Minnesota.
Today, as I sit in my suite on Waikiki Beach and enjoy the wonders our Great Architect has wrought in this paradise, I recognize I sit here largely as a function of my birth. Although I was not given much, I was afforded many advantages men born into different circumstances do not enjoy. The first of which is the fact that I am an American. I have never had to seek refuge from a warlord or been afraid to speak my mind. But even in America that is also a function of the color of my skin. I remember vividly standing alongside the family during their interview on CNN regarding Philando Castile who was gunned down in Minneapolis. I have never had to fear a uniformed police officer or had to ask why I was stopped. Other advantage I had due largely to my skin color includes a good education. With that education, I completed an apprenticeship and became a Journeyman Lineman. I enjoy the benefits of being in the top 5% of income earners with very little encumbrance upon my advancement. During my career, I have worked in many distressed areas throughout this country. I have befriended people in the Southside of Chicago, Kansas City Kansas, South Central LA, Detroit, North Minneapolis, and many other cities. I have seen firsthand there is no such thing today as liberty and justice for all.
Receiving most of my education in a small 3A school in rural Kansas, I was able to participate in several sports. Taking a knee was never a sign of disrespect. It was quite the opposite. We took a knee to get instruction from our coaches. We also took a knee to give solemn respect to any injured player, friend or adversary.
I say all of that to say this: as men and Masons we owe it to our nation to be honest and forthright in our deliberations. Let us not confuse the separate issues of protest with patriotism. Let us not forget why these men kneel in respect. Let us always be mindful of that time we ourselves stood blind and penniless at the Altar of Masonry.
I was moved by seeing the players, coaches, and owners standing together in a chain of unity. Would that Masons also stood united in support of every American regardless of their circumstance remembering we regard the inward characteristics that elevate us! Let us stand together, even with those who kneel to do it.
I am fortunate to have many close friends in Masonry, very especially, my good friend WBro. Jimmy Harris. He has been gracious in writing this paper on things that have weighed on his mind, just as they have on the mind of many. Thank you, brother. You’re a gift in my life.
Source: Millennial Freemason