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Fraternals: Financial Security, Community Service and…Civility

September 16, 2019

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I recently had the honor of attending an event hosted by a new local chapter of Gleaner Life to honor several members for their unselfish service to the community. The featured speaker that evening was Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio). I was incredibly impressed with Rep. Gibbs’s grasp of the foundations of our business model – providing members financial security and using the proceeds from our financial services operations to fund volunteerism and service projects that reflect our member’s shared values. More importantly, Rep. Gibbs touched on an often-overlooked contribution of the fraternal community: their role in teaching and spreading basic civility among members and within our greater society.

At a time when our political environment punishes those legislators who dare to reach across the aisle and look for ways to work with their colleagues in a way that benefits the nation – rather than their party or personal re-election chances – Rep. Gibbs recognized the historical importance of fraternals in bringing people, communities, and our country together through the simple act of teaching and spreading civility.

So, I took note of the September 10, 2019, Wall Street Journal review of a new book by Howard Husock titled “Who Killed Civil Society?” I’ve downloaded the book but have yet to read it. Nonetheless, I wanted to share a few quotes from the WSJ book review to not only whet your appetite for it, but to understand that teaching and spreading civility is still an incredibly important role fraternals can play in the 21st century. See if these ring your bell:

  • “Despite the massive scale and blanket coverage of the modern social service state, it fails to provide something essential: the modeling of habits and values that lay the foundation for upward social mobility and life as a contributor to one’s community.”
  • “Before the New Deal, charities and voluntary associations allowed Americans to join one another in a range of service activities but also taught them how to become good citizens and good people in the individualistic culture of the United States.”
  • “A surge in government assistance disrupted the logic of voluntary enterprise. The effect has been to diminish civil society’s role as well as to reduce its moral leverage: many groups that were once privately supported have become heavily dependent on public funding.”
  • “Many people need what the government does not provide and perhaps cannot: help in developing the kind of personal traits likely to reduce the dependence on such assistance.”

So, the next time you meet a public official, let them know that your society helps secure its members’ financial futures; helps build stronger communities through volunteerism and member engagement; and provides a fertile training ground for citizens to learn the fine art of civility and self-reliance.