by Matthew Dexter Edmonds, MM
John W. Barkley Lodge No. 621 of F. & A. M. in N. Olmsted, Ohio
trail name: "Forsaken Route"
Brethren, you know the song "Wonderwall" by Oasis? It goes "today was gonna be the day, but they’re gonna throw it back to you. By now, you should have somehow realized what you gotta do..." I'm 27, a Millennial and I've been a Mason for 9 years and a DeMolay for two more on top of that. I was stateside in the Army from 2002 to 2005 where Masonry and its appendants were the only way I "went abroad." I turned majority while serving what was then Alexandria - Washington Chapter, DeMolay International while they were meeting at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Va. People who meet there generally think like the memorial is just another temple to them. I, on the other hand, found it to be a pleasure doing business in the premiere house of American Masonry. If there are two things I regard highly in my Masonic career, they'd be... that which is unique... and that which is obscure.
I just told you about the unique... now; let me tell you about the obscure. What you probably don't know is that Masonry has a service organization that is registered with the DOD's Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and the VA's Volunteer Service (VAVS) as a service organization in many of their facilities. It has the same classification as the VFW, American Legion, and the USO in said facilities known as the Hospital Visitation Program (HVP), which is a part of the Masonic Service Association (MSA) of North America. It's probably the original catalyst that led to the formation of the MSA.
Apparently, prior to the MSA, our 49 American grand lodges could not come together to agree on creating such an organization. However, lodges during WWI were requesting to send care packages to Masonic troops overseas and the Federal Government refused to deal with all of them. And in 1918 the MSA was created for the purpose performing services which individual grand lodges can't readily do themselves.
Since then, the MSA has taken on some other interests, such as some of the brochures you may see around your Tyler’s station, disaster relief, the Masonic Information Center (MIC), and short talk bulletins come to mind. I am currently the Deputy Representative to the Masonic Service Association at the Wade Park VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. While some MSA HVP's maintain a more robust program of volunteerism, others keep it simple and stick to visiting the patients. The HVP attempts to address the morale and welfare of every serviceman and veteran within a facility, not just Masons.
I've often found that the best opportunities in Masonry are the ones I invent myself. I'm going on a transcontinental hike (or at least I'm going to attempt such a feat) from the Great Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean and ending at Cape Alva, Washington on the Pacific. To put it mildly, I've been blessed. I think I should mention that a similar route has been attempted before by Mr. Andrew Surka and is known as the "Sea-to-Sea" by the North Country Trail (NCT, which covers about 3,300 miles of the said 8,000 mile journey). Essentially, there are about 7 major trails in the northern USA which do not connect. And the NCT is considering the feasibility of the route as to whether they wish to finally establish those connections.
It took him about a year to cross the continent. And from what I understand, during the missing links, the path in-between is at the hiker's discretion (which is the case in western ND and most of MT). It seems that he preferred a course which isolated him from civilization to test his ability to cope with it... not to mention that many hikers just like to "get away from it all."
Not me. I'm not much of an environmentalist... I'm a distance person, myself. I project that my course will be different because my mission is different. And my mission is to travel domestic and abroad in support of the MSA-HVP in the United States. To put it mildly, the course, when at my discretion, will favor one thing... town. This transcontinental solo hike is what I call "Project: Wayfarer." Because of the nature of the MSA's 501(C)3, when I start fundraising, I will not be able to solicit donations from non-Masons (however, I can accept them). At the moment I am considering my fundraising options. What I can tell you is this... We will be doing things "electronically (i.e. PayPal or Google Checkout)."
Brethren, on the trail we have what are called "trail angels." Which is if somewhere you see me on the road, don't be afraid to stop by, walk with me, give me a snickers, offer me some place warm to sleep, so on and so forth. I'm probably going to be requesting to sleep on Masonic building grounds anyways… even if it’s outside, under an emergency metal staircase.
Before I conclude, I want to tell you a story. And this one is like another song, only this time by Hank Williams, Jr. (a.k.a. Bocephus) called "The Ride." It's when he gets picked up and the ghost of his father gives him (his career) a lift to Nashville. I was somewhere about 20 miles southeast of Canton, Ohio on the Buckeye Trail field testing a new piece of equipment (like a shakedown cruise). And my return loop put me on a secondary state highway. And I came up on a 3 way intersection and this Buick pulled up and the guy asked if I wanted a ride? And I've hitched before, only this was no ordinary hitch... and he certainly wasn't a ghost.
But he was looking awwwwwwwwwfully dressed up for a rainy Saturday night. Turns out those decals on his tail lights were RAM... the suit he was wearing was red. And he even came complete with a KYCH tie clip. Apparently his blue lodge meets on 2nd Saturdays and he had just got out... and gave me a lift back to town where my car was parked.
Now that you have read Brother Matthew's guest article, I would like to ask all of you to repost, link on your site, tell your friends, tell your lodge, post to Facebook or Twitter, and talk to your Grand Lodge about this plan. I feel very strongly about our brother's goal. If you are a brother in the northern states or southern provinces and would like to help out, please email him or "like" his Project: Wayfarer on Facebook. Thank you Brother Matthew for this article and good luck on your travels.