Those Men on Tiny Motorcycles and the Funny Hats
How To Learn About Community Services In Only 10 Days.
On the children’s cartoon, The Flintstones, Fred, and Barney belong to a fraternal organization that takes up quite a bit of their time. It is called the Loyal Order of the Buffalo, and their leader is the Grand Poobah. This is a funny reference to several important organizations that make a genuine contribution to the community through their many philanthropic and community service efforts. In almost every small town and big city in America, there are several men’s fraternal organizations that gather together routinely, just like the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo did on The Flintstones.
Now we won’t say that some of the things the men who gather in these groups do is not as fun and light-hearted as it is depicted on The Flintstones. These organizations, including The Lions Club, The Rotary Club, The Scottish Rite, The Knights of Columbus, The Kiwanis, and the Shiners, go back many generations in our culture and provide valuable networking opportunities for men in every community they serve.
Some secrecy goes on with these fraternal organizations, but that secrecy is not insidious as some have suggested. The charters of these organizations are universally benevolent and dedicated to three important principles. Those are (1) fellowship for men to network with each other and gather to discuss community issues, (2) fun that is wholesome and provides a venue where men can acceptably enjoy each other’s company, and (3) community service.
It is that last core value that we in the community see the most often when these fraternal organizations mobilize to take on an important need in the community. Because these organizations are often populated by business leaders, religious clergy, and influential men of all walks of life, when they put their minds to get something done for the community, they have the leadership, the resources, the money, the talent, and the self-will to get things done. It is in the area of community service that these fraternal organizations are the most valuable to any community.
None are more recognizable as the Shiners. The Shiners of North America are well known because of the famous Shrine Circus that makes its way around the country each year. Many children can remember going to their first Shrine Circus parade and seeing those men come charging down the street on those tiny little motorcycles or in tiny little cars all wearing that tall red hat, called a “fez,” which is part of the uniform of a Shrine. This sense of fun and their desire to bring joy and laughter to families is one reason the Shiners are such a beloved organization in our communities.
This circus is almost as famous as the Ringling Brother’s circus, and it holds special meaning for a lot of families. That is because this is just one of the dozens of ways the Shiners raise money for their biggest community service project of them all. In fact, the community service the Shiners do has been called the World’s Greatest Philanthropy. That is because this fraternal organization has built and continues to operate 22 hospitals for children all over the country.
The stories of miracles that have been done to save the lives of children in the Shiners children’s hospitals are numerous. These wonderful hospitals offer care for children with life-threatening diseases to whom they provide the finest of medical care. Even more amazing is that children who receive care at these hospitals are never required to be associated with the Shrine organization, and many times the care they receive is given to them free of charge.
It is heartwarming to see the good the Shiners of North America do each year as they hold parades, trips, dances, dinners, sporting events, and that wonderful circus to raise money for their hospitals for children. It is amazing what many men on tiny motorcycles and wearing funny hats can do when they put their minds to it.
Patriotism is a word that has gotten a lot of use in the last few years as more and more people try to define what patriotism is based on how much you fly your flag and how many magnets you have on your car. But the expression of patriotism we show at the fourth of the July when we cut loose with those fireworks, or we shout in agreement at stirring patriotic speeches are not the kind of patriotism that makes this country as great as it is.
This is not to say that there is no place for that kind of patriotic expression. To be able to express devotion to the country openly is one of our rights. And when all citizens of this country can do that in agreement, it builds community and the kind of pride that makes the nation strong.
There is a phrase that one of the army divisions uses to explain to anybody who asks what makes that unit so brave and able to do such amazing things in battle or whenever called into duty. It is a very simple phrase but one that is full of meaning. It simply says “deeds, not words.”
The concept of deeds being the true substance of patriotism is nowhere better shown than in the many community service acts that go on in this country every week of the year. All over this great land, clubs, Boy Scout troops, churches, businesses, and every imaginable kind of organization go into the community to do service projects to make their communities a better place to live.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like patriotism because we tend to associate patriotism with love of the country as a whole. But none of us live in the country as a whole. Each of us lives in a community that, taken together, makes this wonderful country as great as it is. The country isn’t great because it photographs well from space. It is great because in little towns and small cities and big metropolises and out in the country, Americans get out and find ways to help each other and to help their communities grow and continue to prosper.
That spirit of community service is always on display when you see moments of crisis in a part of the country. We see situations every week where there is a tornado here or a fire there or a lost child in one small town, or a family who loses everything in another. When we see that, without fail, you see the local community rally to the aid of those who lost the most. In fact, when the national media does their job of letting us know when the need is great, the nation as a whole will pitch in and do all they can to help out their neighbors in another state, even though these are neighbors they have never met and that they will never see again.
Obviously, dramatic events like the 911 attacks show that kind of spirit most dramatically. At the local level, even in a town like New York City, on the sight where there was tremendous danger and loss of life everywhere, those New Yorkers became what we all are. They became Americans, and even with the threat of more danger, they got in there and helped the wounded. And then, day by day, week by week, those Americans set upon a community service project to end all community service projects as they began to put those neighborhoods back together again and make a community out of what terrorists turned into a war zone.
But the local community service is not the end of the story. Soon from all over America, from small towns and big cities, armies of volunteers, coordinated by wise agencies that we depend on in times like these, moved into New York to lend their hands, neighbor to neighbor to help rebuild that city. Never mind if that mother from Peoria knew about New York or agreed with them politically. She saw a neighbor in pain and a town attacked by an enemy. And Americans come together when we need each other. That is the heart of what makes community service work. And that is the true meaning of patriotism.