My family and I left the Grange earlier this year after a dozen years of membership. I’d been teetering on the brink of leaving for several years because of what I considered to be hopelessly entrenched bad policies that I just couldn’t reconcile with my values and beliefs. During our membership I fully embraced the ideals represented in the 1874 Declarations of Principle, and the watered-down modern version, as well. I think the Manual of Subordinate Granges and the Pomona manual give valuable instruction in the running of the home and the farm that we would all do well to emulate.
That is not what I saw and experienced in the policies and proclamations and associations and actions of Grange membership and leadership. For years, I made excuses to friends who I’d enlist to check out the Grange and they’d walk away, feeling misled by me. The cognitive dissonance was inescapable. Grange often does not live up to its own ideals and many Grangers seem oblivious or worse.
When Oregon’s Protection from Monsanto act was in the Oregon legislature this year, I couldn’t reconcile the dissonance any longer. Knowing my membership dollars were going to pay a lobbyist who would likely be standing with the folks whose pockets are being lined by Monsanto was the last straw. My family and I left the Grange.
This was such a sad occasion for us. I’d been leading a Junior Grange for the past year and a half and I’d recently taken on a leadership role in the county to help revitalize struggling Granges in the area. So many of our good friends are Grangers. I loved Grange.
I was heartened to hear that at state session Grange voted to stand neutral on the GMO issue. Not heartened enough to return because I was not convinced that the will of the membership is truly represented by the lobbyist.
Then something happened. During state fair, my daughter stopped in at the OSG log cabin at the state fair. She was drawn there for sentimental reasons, we’d worked a shift or two in the log cabin every summer for the past 10 years. Erika is disabled and doesn’t get out of the house as much as she’d like to because she can’t drive. She was incredibly touched when she went into the log cabin and she was greeted warmly by the Granger staffing it. So much so that when she got home she told me the story. Because of memory issues, she couldn’t remember the name of the Granger who greeted her. To me the important part is that they did. I shared this with the organizer of the log cabin who replied to me that she was glad to hear this because their isn’t enough kindness in the world these days.
Not long after, listening to the radio, I heard Jewel’s song “Hands.” In the song there’s the phrase “in the end, only kindness matters.” I was immediately reminded of Erika’s story about the log cabin. Yes, in the end, only kindness matters.
I realized, too, that as far as Grange ideals go, I was like the “pot calling the kettle black.” I, too, wasn’t living up to them myself. In the Grange we are called to meet together and work together for our mutual protection and advancement. By walking away from educating my fellow Grangers about the dangers posed by GMO, I failed in this obligation. We are also reminded that there is bound to be disagreement but that the fault in this lies in the bitterness of the controversy.
I shared all this with my former master at a recent Grange-sponsored event and told her that we were considering looking for a Grange to join. I wasn’t sure about my local Grange because there isn’t another youth-aged member in our local Grange. After a little further discussion I decided that, indeed, my local Grange is the right fit. I am happy to say that the membership voted to allow me to be reinstated as a member of Silverton Grange #748.
I vow to uphold my obligation as a Grange member and to work through the channels to call us back to our founding principles. I also vow to remember that in the end, only kindness matters.