Unselfish In Our Actions
By Right Worshipful Brother Morris Rozen
Address at Lodge Kaapstad
03 December 2001
Based on an address given by the past Grand Master Most, Wor. Bro. George Groenewald when he was still Provincial Grand Master of the Northern Division to Lodge Golden City on 23 August 1973 .
Brethren , tonight I intend diverting from the customary form of address and instead relate to you the following story which touched me deeply when I read it for the first time. There may be some brethren who may have heard it, but I consider it worth retelling.
On a narrow little side street in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, there once lived a cobbler named Lars Borndt. From daylight till dark he hammered and stitched the weary shoes of the neighbourhood. He did his own cooking on a stove in the combination kitchen, dining room and living room behind the shop. Overhead, at the top of a steep flight of stairs, was his cramped bedroom. Life had been bleak since the death of his wife, and he seldom heard from his three children, long since married and in homes of their own. But he found strength in reading the Scriptures from an old and worn Bible kept handy next to his bed.
One night, as he sat in his easy chair beside the window looking out at the stars, he thought he heard a voice. Perhaps he had fallen asleep and was only dreaming, but the voice was very real. It was the voice of God saying: ”Tomorrow I shall visit you.“ He undressed and climbed into bed but throughout a restless night the voice kept repeating: ”Tomorrow I shall visit you.”
Before daylight he got up and started cleaning the house. At 7 o’clock, when the markets opened, he hurried out to buy some choice food for his Guest. Then he sat down in the cluttered shop and waited.
The city awakened with people hurrying along the sidewalk past his window. From time to time, Lars heard a little noise that might have been a knock, but when he opened the door no-one was there. Once when he looked out he saw a labourer sitting on the doorstep.
“Why are you sitting there?” Lars enquired.
”Because I am tired,” replied the man. “For days I have been trudging the streets looking for a job but have been unsuccessful.”
Lars observed: “Your shoes are worn out. Come in and I’ll give you a better pair. I’m poor, but not as poor as you.”
In a few minutes the labourer returned to the street wearing a new pair of shoes.
At noon the cobbler looked out to discover an old woman sitting on the doorstep. Beside her was a big bundle of washing tied up in a bedspread.
“Why are you sitting there?“ Lars asked.
“I must rest,“ she replied. “This bundle is very heavy and I still have a long way to carry it. It is the washing I do for rich people and when they pay me, I’ll be able to eat again.”
“When last have you eaten?“ Lars wanted to know.
“Two days ago “ she replied.
Lars helped her to her feet , and bringing the bundle, led her through the shop back to the kitchen.
“Sit down and I will prepare you a good meal. I was expecting company today and bought plenty of food, but I guess He is not coming. However your need is greater than His.”
An hour later the old woman shouldered her bundle again and departed.
The sun was setting when Lars heard a little boy crying. He opened the door and called out: “Why are you crying, little boy ?”
“I’m lost,” sobbed the child. “My aunt is going to take care of me while my mother is going to have a baby. Here’s her address,“ he said drawing a paper from his pocket.
Lars peered through his spectacles and stated: “That’s a long way from here. You can never find it alone. I was expecting company today, but it is more important to help you.”
He locked the shop and taking the little boy’s hand, led him into the shadows.
Long after dark, Lars Borndt returned, and when everything was secure for the night, climbed the stairs to his bedroom. While undressing he mused, “I was a fool to believe in a dream. God would not visit a poor cobbler like me.”
Suddenly a great light flooded the room and a voice more beautiful than anything in the world rang in the soul of Lars Borndt. “But I did visit you. I’ve been with you three times today. I was the labourer to whom you gave shoes. I was the old woman and you fed me. I was the lost little boy, and you took me home.”
Brethren, I am positive that Lars Borndt never put a foot in a masonic lodge room, yet I am equally certain that he was truly worthy of being called a Freemason, for in all his actions on that eventful day, he displayed all those virtues which characterise a true Mason and which it should be our constant endeavour to emulate. He acknowledged the Fatherhood of God, exercised a true spirit of the Brotherhood of Man, showing no differentiation in whom he assisted, and he dispensed charity or benevolence in his deeds, in the fullest sense of the word, with no regard for his personal needs.
What more can be asked of any man?
This story serves to illustrate that a man need not necessarily be a member of our order to conduct himself in accordance with our noble principles, and that consequently there is a greater onus on us, who profess to be active Freemasons at all times to exemplify the characteristics of a worthy Freemason. We must be fully conscious and concerned about the welfare of those in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves.
Brethren, just like Lars Borndt, who did not for one moment contemplate that by his actions, he would be inviting a visit from Him whom we know as the Great Architect of the Universe, for that was what he was unconsciously doing. We must be unselfish in our actions and cultivate a sincere desire to assist and to be of service to those who need help.
If we continue along those lines, we will earn the acknowledgement, privileges, mercies and approbation from His hand. Similar to Lars Borndt, we will be giving shoes to a labourer, feeding an old lady and assisting a young man to find his destination in life.
As long as this spirit prevails in our order, we can rest assured that our labours and actions will be blessed with His Presence.
Brethren, just as a last thought: What did we do today to warrant a visit from Him?