What is brotherhood? If you were to ask ten people what their definition of brotherhood is, you would likely receive ten different answers. Webster’s Dictionary defines brotherhood as an association of men united in a common interest, work, creed, etc. Being part of a brotherhood as unique as ours can’t easily be explained or defined, it must be experienced to fully understand and appreciate it. It is the knowledge that all of your brothers have traveled the same path that has led them all to a common place and a united purpose.
In December of 2012, I, along with three of my brothers, decided that we wanted to form a new unit called the Nomads. We had all been members of well-established units but wanted to do something a little different. We came together quickly as a cohesive unit determined to create our own path. We had all been in the Shrine for less than two years so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect by starting a new unit. We knew that we wanted to bring youth, enthusiasm, passion, energy and creativity to our unit. We wanted to project something that would attract and inspire other like-minded brothers and others interested in joining the Shrine. Our purpose wasn’t to try to change the Shrine, but rather to bring a new element to the Shrine. Fortunately, the Shrine is not a One Size Fits All fraternity. Diversity is welcomed.
The Nomads unit had its bylaws signed by the Potentate and officially became a unit on January 2, 2013. We created our Facebook page (facebook.com/elkarubahnomads) and quickly gained more than 250 followers. A couple of weeks later, what began as a joke on Facebook between a unit member and one of his wife’s friends became our first unit fundraiser, Pretty Pink Piggies. The challenge was that if the friend could raise $1,000, all of the unit members, six by now, would agree to have a pedicure and to have their toe nails painted pink. But that wasn’t all. We had to keep them painted pink for one month. The event created quite the buzz and a few weeks later, the unit gathered at the local nail salon and as men of our word, we had our toe nails painted pink, bright pink. Our Ladies chose the neon version of pink just to help us out. We even had the local TV station there to cover the event. Ultimately, the event raised $1,600 that was all donated as part of the unit’s 2013 donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Pretty Pink Piggies event raised some eyebrows of the more veteran Shriners, while others were excited to see something new and creative. No one was really sure just what to make of us.
One day, as chance would have it, our Unit President saw a post on Facebook by one of the Divan members of the El Karubah Temple, requesting two Shriners to drive a couple of Divan members in two parades on the same day. Although the trip would require a three hour drive, we saw this as an opportunity to meet the leadership of our Temple and to connect with them on a more personal level. We were greeted with smiling faces, open arms and a great appreciation for making this effort. Over the next many weeks, we attended several Temple functions, parades and hospital events while still maintaining a strong presence at our local club and in our own community. The bonds of brotherhood had begun to flourish outside of the borders that we had known for the past two years. The support, encouragement and mentoring that was provided to us was a very humbling experience for us all. It was clear that we were all in this together and that support provided a great sense of purpose and pride to our unit members.
As the year progressed, we made every effort to reciprocate the support that had been shown to us. Our unit made sixteen trips to participate with our Divan and Shreveport brothers, each trip being a two hour drive from Alexandria, Louisiana. In December of 2013, we were asked by the Potentate to have our unit attend the last Temple meeting of the year. The Nomads showed up in full force, having ten members by now. During the meeting, several awards were given out recognizing individuals for their achievements and efforts throughout the year. It came time for the last award of the evening to be presented. The Potentate became very quiet and very serious. He began to speak about a group of young Shriners, that only twelve months earlier, had started a new unit. He spoke about the youth, enthusiasm, creativity, commitment and participation that he had witnessed first-hand throughout the year. He spoke about this group of young Shriners reminding him of himself when he began his journey as a Shriner, many years before. With tears in his eyes and conviction in his voice, our Potentate then awarded the Nomads Unit the Unit of The Year award for 2013. Our unit members were elated and were so honored by this recognition. Our hearts were filled with emotion, having achieved so many of our goals that we had set for ourselves only twelve months earlier.
Our next goal was to continue this level of enthusiasm and commitment and to spread this excitement with the rest of our brothers. In January of 2014, we were honored to have two of our unit members appointed to the Divan, one elected as 2nd Vice President of our club and two members elected to its’ Board of Directors. It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We encourage you to take that first step and to create your own path. As you begin your journey, you will find that you are not alone and that there are others there who will support you along the way. That’s what brothers do. The unknown can be breathtaking, exciting and a little intimidating. Take that first step and we will travel together, as brothers should.