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There are hundreds if not thousands of fraternal orders, clubs, and organizations of social, political, religious, and athletic natures like the Masons, Lions, Elks, Knights of Columbus, B’nai Brith, Democrat and Republican parties, etc., but somehow I’ve managed over the course of my life to avoid joining any of them.
Sure, as a youth my friends and I formed ersatz baseball and football teams or set up club houses in empty basements or hallways, but they were always temporary shelters where we hung out, never having formal names or jackets to identify ourselves. I never joined a fraternity or a fan club of any kind, and though I do belong to a religious congregation for reasons known only to myself, I never attend any functions. I’m not a loner, just not a joiner.
Groucho Marx once quipped “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” and that pretty much sums up how I have always felt. At one time I was asked to join a lodge but when I went to a meeting all I saw was a bunch of old men with whom I had nothing in common, sitting around or playing cards just to get out of the house and away from their wives for a night. Were their home lives that miserable and boring that they had to escape to such a dreary place? How sad I thought.
Having played sports all my life I do wish that I had joined or at least tried out for my high school team, and in reality I actually did sign up for the college baseball squad and went to several practices, though dropping out of school before tryouts ever took place. I’ll never know whether or not I would have made the team and that truly is one of my few regrets in life, never having tried to become a member where I really wanted to belong. I did go back to college eventually and in fact am still there, but now in my 70s I doubt if I’d have much chance of being even a bench jockey, other than perhaps as a mascot.
To be honest however, there was one organization that I did join which even had a name and a uniform, the U.S. Army. It didn’t fall under any of the categories mentioned above but it really was enjoyable to be a member, and something of which I’m happy to admit to. I didn’t do anything exciting or heroic but still at least belonged to something. I had a serial number, was discharged with the Good Conduct Medal, and even have a DD 214 to prove it.
In retrospect then I guess I am a joiner of sorts, having committed myself to a two year tour of duty with a bunch of others who by now number in the millions, so it’s hardly exclusive. Uncle Sam wanted me, I had nothing better to do at the time, so I gave it a try. Fortunately it worked out okay because that was one group from which you can’t just quit on a whim. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.