Thursday, October 31, 2019

What Should You Do if You're The First at a Car Accident Scene?

I was driving home from the office yesterday when I came upon an accident scene. The car accident had actually occurred just seconds before I arrived. A Jeep and Honda collided on a highway, where the posted speed is 60 miles per hour. As I approached the scene, I saw another driver stop to attend to the person in the Jeep. My focus was then on the four-door red Honda that was out in a field. I pulled my truck over, turned on the hazard lights, and ran down to the red car through the wet grass on a chilly, rainy day.

Inside was an elderly woman in her late 70's. She was all alone, conscious, and was rather calm with her hands resting on the steering wheel. I began to chat with her and she said that she didn't know what happened -- that she was on the highway and then ended up in a field. The vehicle's air bags had gone off and she was still in her seat belt. There were no visible injuries, although she complained of a hurting shoulder. I could tell that her shoulder had been injured by the seat belt locking in the accident, an abrasion being quite evident. Other than that, she appeared to be okay.

Another driver who had stopped called emergency services while another was checking out the situation of smoke coming from the engine compartment. There was a slight drizzle of rain and the smoke subsided rather quickly. We kept the woman in the vehicle out of the elements until paramedics arrived. At that point, there was nothing more that I could do and the officer told me that I was free to go.

My focus the entire time was on keeping the elderly woman calm, generally evaluating her physical condition, and monitoring the vehicle to make certain that the initial smoke wasn't going to develop into anything worse. Those of us at the scene reassured her and once professionals arrived, our assisting was done. I pray that she'll recover quickly. Since my time was spent with the elderly driver, I didn't learn of the condition of the person in the Jeep. I pray that person will also recover from any injuries that he or she may have sustained.

If you come upon an accident scene, it's important to keep your wits about you and not panic. If your the first at an accident, as I was, the first thing to do is to pull your vehicle over -- parking as far off the road as possible. Turn on your vehicle's hazard and headlights. The next step is to phone emergency services. You will be required to provide your telephone number, location, details of the accident, how many people are injured, and whether there is a fire. This will ensure that the correct and closest emergency personnel are dispatched. If possible, also take note of the nearest route marker, intersection or landmark as this may assist the first responders in reaching the scene as quickly as possible.

Once the scene has been secured and help summoned, you can establish whether any of the people involved in the accident need your assistance. Make sure that all the occupants of the vehicle or vehicles involved in the accident are accounted for and take special care to keep children calm. Don’t attempt to remove anyone that has suffered injuries from the vehicle, unless their life is being threatened by something -- such as a fire. If an accident victim is unconscious you should check whether they are breathing or if anything is obstructing their airway. If the person is not breathing you can begin CPR, but should only do so if you are trained. If the injured person is breathing, you should leave them in the position they are in but keep a watchful eye on them. If anyone is bleeding heavily you can use any material at hand to place over the wound and apply direct pressure until help arrives. If the accident victim is conscious, you should get as much information as possible from them. If he or she passes out before emergency services arrive, you will be able to relay valuable information such as name, age, medical conditions, allergies, and more. Asking questions will also help you to gauge whether the victim has suffered a potential head injury or not. This is important information that should also be passed on to paramedics.

It's a good idea to have a first aid kit in your own vehicle containing items such as latex gloves and bandages to help you to treat minor injuries or – in a worst-case scenario – keep someone alive until professional help arrives.

Road and Travel Magazine published an article that talks about the legal elements of assisting at a car accident scene. Most U.S. states have "Good Samaritan" laws to protect those who give aid at an accident from legal action. But not everybody is covered. Some states apply them only to citizens rendering assistance to auto accident victims, while some other states give protection only to certified emergency personnel. Bizarre as it may seem, what you do at the scene of an accident can have long-range consequences. The foremost question a Good Samaritan should ask is, "Can I leave this accident victim better or in at least the same condition as I found him?"

Even with the best intentions, if an accident victim's injuries are made worse by your "help," you could be liable for his or her additional injuries.

Be sure to turn off the ignition switches on vehicles involved in the accident to reduce the risk of fire. If the accident victim is conscious, ask if he or she wants assistance. If he or she rejects an offer of help, for any reason, do not give aid. As difficult as that might be, wait for professional help to arrive. If you give aid when a person says he doesn't want it, you might be vulnerable under Good Samaritan laws.

Even if an accident victim says "yes, help me," you still need to be cautious. If there is no immediate danger, why move him? It's usually best to wait for professional help to arrive. Statistics show that 80 percent of those hurt in traffic accidents have head injuries. If a person has a head injury, you should assume he or she also has neck and back injuries.

Bandaging wounds, attempting to splint broken bones, or using more advanced first-aid techniques, especially if professional help is on the way, isn't generally recommended. If an injury is obviously life threatening, and waiting for help would endanger a life, then necessary action should probably be taken.

There are actually several "safe" things that you can do to help an accident victim:
  • Cover a victim with a coat or blanket to keep him or her warm, and to prevent shock.
  • Shade the victim from the sun, or protect the from falling rain, to make the victim more comfortable while waiting for the ambulance.
  • Talk to victims, reassure them help is on the way. Be encouraging.
  • Hold the victim's hand while waiting for the ambulance. While this might not seem like much, it can do a lot for an injured person's sense of survival.
  • Use a clean cloth as a compress to stop the flow of blood from a serious wound. In the case of head wounds, however, experts suggest you use as light a pressure as possible because the victim could have a fractured skull.
What if the car bursts into flames, and there are injured persons in it? Most experts agree that pulling a victim from a flaming car, even if it aggravates his or her injuries, would certainly be leaving the person better off than you found him or her. When it comes to saving a life, most people wouldn't even worry about legal liabilities.

Traffic accidents are terrible events. They can be traumatic for victims and bystanders alike. If you ever have to take charge at the scene of an accident, keep in mind that your primary job is to help protect the victims until professional help arrives -- not treat their injuries.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

More Municipalities Are Banning Trick-or-Treating For Teenagers

I have fond memories of Halloween evenings during my childhood years in the 1970's of going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I believe I stopped doing so at around the age of 12, possibly because I had my fill of sweating behind a plastic mask -- which was a common element of Halloween costumes 40 years ago. I know that back then there were not as many concerns about safety as there are today.

U.S. statistics show that approximately 41 million children will trick-or-treat this year in America, and 70 percent of parents won't accompany them. The Centers For Disease Control say that children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year, possibly due to 82 percent of costumes not having any reflective tape or other visibility aids. Also, there are over 4,000 Halloween-related injuries each year in the United States -- the most common injuries being to hands from pumpkin carving and leg and extremity injuries due to falls from long costumes and/or costumes that impair vision.

Halloween can certainly sound like a potentially hazardous time of the year, and in some ways it is. However, it can also be a FUN time that children will always remember... if their parents allow that. Sadly, about 27 percent of parents don't have their children involved in trick-or-treating, according to a survey by Safe Kids Worldwide.

You may have heard last Halloween that the city of Chesapeake, Virginia, implemented an ordinance that banned anyone 13 years and older from trick or treating. If teens were caught in costume with candy, they could be found "guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100 or by confinement in jail for not more than six months or both." Clearly, the city of Chesapeake was determined to take the happy out of Halloween for teenagers in that city.

After receiving national criticism, the leaders of Chesapeake decided to revise the ordinance this year. Now, the maximum trick-or-treating age is 14 and does not allow for possible jail time. The city states that the law is in place only to prevent issues like teens stealing and smashing pumpkins.

Don't think that Virginia has the only city to ban trick-or-treating at a certain age. The same thing has happened in many municipalities in America, including some in Illinois, Mississippi, South Carolina and Maryland.

I hope that everyone has a SAFE and HAPPY Halloween this year. Turn on "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," have some candy, and enjoy the evening.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Becoming Catholic -- My Journey Into The Catholic Church

In five months, I'll be turning 55 years of age. One week after that -- at Easter -- I'll take the final step of a journey I formally began a couple of months ago, but which I've actually been on for many years... a journey toward becoming Catholic. In September 2019, I started the process of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is a weekly class that I attend through the Catholic Church where I learn the teachings of the church in a more formal way, can ask questions to gain deeper understanding, and discern that I am ready to commit to living according to the Catholic Church's beliefs.

I am considered a "Candidate" since I was baptized into another Christian tradition (the Baptist Church at the age of 12). At the Easter Vigil Mass in April 2020, I will enter the Catholic Church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist. This news may come as a bit of a surprise to some of my friends and family reading this, but I have been attending, and volunteering in, the Catholic Church for over four years and my wife has been a Catholic all of her life (a "cradle Catholic"). In fact, we were married in the Catholic Church.

There are certainly some differences in the beliefs of Baptists and Catholics, but I am studying everything closely to gain as deep of an understanding as possible. As some of you know, 30 years ago I obtained a Bachelor's degree in Religion, but now my studies are far more personal and I am on a path which I pray will bring me closer to God in my spiritual walk, closer to my wife in our marriage, and closer to fellow Christians as a believer.

Tens of thousands of people in United States became Catholic at 2019 Easter Vigil Masses. The Diocese that I am in had 93 Candidates enter the Catholic Church earlier this year. The Roman Catholic Church has certainly experienced well-publicized scandals and heartbreaking sinful choices by some of those holding a responsibility to care for, nurture, and lead Catholic parishioners. Turmoil has shaken the church, drawn criticism, and has rattled some Catholics’ faith in the institution -- bringing some Catholics to the point of ceasing to attend Mass. You may be wondering why I would be in the process of preparing to enter the Catholic Church in light of all of this. Keep in mind that the scandals of the Catholic Church are not found only within that institution, as I've written about before in this blog.

I recently read a blog post by a Baptist man who is in the same process I am... of going through the RCIA class to examine the Catholic faith on a path toward entering the Catholic Church. In light of all of the scandal, turmoil and criticisms -- of which he is well aware of -- he wrote: "The history, the global connectedness, the continuity, the tradition, the liturgy, the sacraments, the prayers, the saints, the mysticism, the focus on the poor, the emphasis on justice — all of these dimensions of the faith remain true, good, beautiful and compelling." I agree with that perspective.

Imagine if firemen refused to go into burning buildings to save others and just stood on the sidelines and watched the flames get higher. Sometimes, you have to go in when things are a hot mess. In other words, you have to have faith.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, October 28, 2019

More U.S. Cyclists Died in 2018 Than Any Other Year Since 1990

A report released this month by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that last year was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990. Cyclist deaths in America rose by 6.3 percent from 2017 to 2018. The number of cyclist fatalities in 2018 (857 cyclists) is the highest it has been in almost 30 years. Male cyclist fatalities rose by 3.2 percent, while female cyclist fatalities rose by 29.2 percent.

Fatal accidents involving cyclists that occurred at night rose by 9.2 percent between 2017 and 2018, and fatalities due to drunk driving also increased by 9.2 percent. The NHTSA report states that since 2009, the number of cyclist fatalities in urban areas has risen by a disturbing 48 percent.

Drivers, pay attention and drive sober!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, October 25, 2019

Do You Believe in God? At Least 70 Percent of Americans Say They Do!

Data from the latest Pew Religious Landscape Study (PRLS) shows that the United States is a "spiritual, but not religious" country. The PRLS is a survey of more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states that analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors. Ninety-two percent of Americans hold to a belief in God, or a God of some kind. Even among the religiously unaffiliated, 70 percent believe in God with some level of certainty. In addition, 74 percent believe in an afterlife; 79 percent believe in miracles; and, 68 percent believe in angels and demons.

The number of Americans that identify as Catholic has dropped from about 25 percent to 20 percent in the last 10 years. The decline among Protestants in the same time period has been from 51 percent to 43 percent. Only 49 percent of American Millennials are Christian, and 40 percent have no religious affiliation. This means that within a generation or two (if trends continue) America will no longer be a majority Christian country. Also, the drop-off in religious faith over age groups is far more pronounced among Catholics than among Protestants.

I'm 54 years old and have been a Christian since I was a boy. There was one statistic in the latest Pew Religious Landscape Study that particularly stood out to me. In the 50 to 64 age group, 66 percent of Protestants are absolutely certain of the existence of God, compared to 54 percent of Catholics. I've been absolutely certain of the existence of God since the age of 12. It's sad to see that only two-thirds of Protestants, and only a little more than half of all Catholics, believe God's existence with absolute certainty.

Only 34 percent of Catholics see a conflict between their religion and modern society. Perhaps that's because only 42 percent of Catholics attend church at least once a week, which is lower than the attendance at Evangelical churches. If you're not in the pew regularly, you're not receiving instruction and guidance from the church -- which assists in identifying 'conflicts' between religion and modern society.

Finally, the study results state that slightly more than 50 percent of Catholics and mainline Protestants pray daily. I think prayer is exactly what America needs!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Why Are Runners More Likely To Be Successful in Life?

Peteni Kuzwayo is a Christian, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, and editor of Run For Wealth -- a blog established with the mission of helping people "run a fulfilling life race." The blog publishes content that promotes living an abundant and balanced life. Mr. Peteni has run over 30 Marathons, 15 Ultra-marathons and 4 Comrades Marathons.

In an article titled 11 Reasons Why Runners Are More Likely To Be Successful, Mr. Peteni states that running yields success, and his definition of success is living a fulfilling and balanced life. He outlines the reasons why runners are likely to be successful, based on his own experiences.

Since my running career was in ultra-endurance running across states and countries solo without any support crew and completely self reliant by pushing a stroller loaded with gear, food and water... I don't believe that all of Mr. Peteni's "reasons" apply to me as a runner. However, I believe that for the general populace of runners there are some things to be gleaned from his words. In a nutshell, these are his 11 reasons why runners are likely to successful in life.

1. They understand the importance of goal-setting
Nothing significant can be achieved in the absence of setting clear and powerful goals. Runners set goals all the time. Speed training is driven by goals. Hills training is driven by goals. Long runs are based on goals. Races are driven by goals.

2. They measure progress
Runners use gadgets because they measure almost everything: speed, heart rate, distance, averages, and more. All of this data is important and gets analyzed by runners to measure progress.

3. They value time
Time is of the essence to runners. To runners, one second can be the difference between a medal and non-acknowledgement. One second can be the difference between tears of joy and tears of heartache.

4. They are highly disciplined
Training for a long distance event – marathons and longer – requires self-discipline. It takes months of consistency, sacrifice and effort, all of which hinge on this one vital characteristic called self-discipline.

5. They know how to overcome obstacles
During training, runners will go through periods of injuries, illness and fatigue – physically and mentally. In extreme events, runners experience grueling obstacles. From the crazy distances to tough weather conditions, runners have to endure challenges that bring out the best in them.

6. They are patient
Runners value process. In a world of short-cuts and manipulation, runners understand that the best way to get success is through patience. Patience builds life endurance in you. Patience teaches you humility.

7. They know that competing with others is not the most important thing
You have to view competition with the right perspective. While competing with others can be great, competing against yourself is the ideal.

8. They build networks
Because of the nature of long distance running, you are able to spend hours on the road, interacting with others. Through this interaction, relationships are built. Through relationship building, intricate networks are built – all of which can be ingredients to success.

9. They budget
Runners have numerous events in a year, and some include travelling and accommodations. As a result, they are forced to budget in advance to avoid the increased costs of last minute bookings. Budgeting is essential to life success.

10. They understand the power of leverage
Runners understand the power of teamwork. When you run in a team, you are able to encourage one another and share the load and strain. You are also able to glean and learn from the strongest. For many runners, a team setting helps you to go far.

11. They view failure differently
Everyone experiences failure in life. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is that those who succeed view failure as temporary. Runners learn from failure. They view failure as a necessary transition towards success.

Success is not an automatic process. It requires a certain type of mindset. It also requires a particular lifestyle that is built of productive habits. Running is a wonderful sporting discipline that builds characteristics in you that cannot be manipulated.

I retired from a lifetime of running a few years ago, reaching a point in my early 50's of having ultimately acquired what I wanted from the sport and valuing far more where I'm at and the healthy mindset I maintain daily. My faith, family and fabulous wife are now the only "successes" I need in life. Running the equivalent of over twice around planet earth did indeed embed into me habits that are essential for being successful. However, I no longer feel the need to pound my body into the ground in order to try and run from or to run toward anything in my life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

My Youngest Son is a Member of His University's eSports Team

Three years ago, in 2016, I posted a writing to this blog about my youngest son being an online gamer. Today, he is only a couple of months away from his 20th birthday and attends a university. Recently, he was accepted to be on an eSports team at that university. An eSports team battles in online multiplayer games to determine a winner. My son's school is one of 175 colleges and universities which are members of The National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). There are over 5,000 student athletes in the NACE -- and yes, those who participate in competitive gaming are referred to as "athletes." In fact, the NACE provides over $16 million in eSports scholarships and aid to such athletes.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about the rise in video game-related injuries, and I hope that my son doesn't experience that on his eSports team. He currently practices with his team four days per week and has competitions on Saturdays with other universities. The games that are played include: League of Legends; Overwatch; Fortnite; Apex Legends; and Rocket League. Personally, I have never played any of them. In fact, I don't play video games at all. However, it is something that my youngest college son is quite good at. In fact, multiple partial and full scholarships for his campus' eSport athletes will be available beginning in the fall of 2020. Also, his eSports team has sponsored equipment, coaches, and a new gaming arena at his university is being created.

The eSports industry has seen tremendous growth over the years both in terms of viewership and revenue. The global eSports market is expected to surge to over $1 billion this year, up $230 million from 2018 on growth in sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales. There is currently a global eSports audience of over 450 million as fans tune in on livestreaming platforms, such as Twitch and Microsoft's Mixer. Big competitions are held in arenas where thousands of fans watch big-name professional video gamers compete for lucrative prize pools.

So, just how lucrative can it be for professional eSports teams? The recent Dota 2 eSports tournament had $34.3 million in prize money and 66 million viewers. The winning team, OG, won over $15 million in prize money, or about $3 million for each player on the team. That's more than the 2019 Wimbledon singles champions took home ($2.9 million each). Also, the Fortnite World Cup had a $30 million prize pool that is estimated to reach $40 million next year.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

New Addition to Our Family: A Chevrolet Silverado 1500

My wife and I recently purchased a new vehicle... one that I've thought about getting for quite some time. We purchased the All-Star Edition of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, with heavy-duty trailering package. It has a 5.3-liter V8 engine; 4-wheel drive automatic; 6-inch tubular oval chrome assist steps; heavy-duty rear automatic locking differential; Z71 off-road suspension package; skid plate package; stability control -- with anti-roll; traction control -- ABS and driveline; privacy/tinted glass; air conditioning; cruise control; power heated mirrors; power steering; locking tailgate; Bluetooth; and more. The bed length is about 6 feet. We are very happy with it -- and love the deep ruby metallic color!

For the past 20 years or so I've primarily driven what many would consider to be "Mom" cars -- those being minivans, crossover SUV's, or soccer-mom-type SUV's. It's nice to have a truck that I can haul things, if needed, and which can comfortably hold up to six people (yes, inside the truck... not in the bed of it!). This 5,000-pound truck gets 22 miles per gallon on the highway, and 15 in the city.

My 86-year-old father has driven a Chevy Silverado for the past 25 years. He has taken such good care of it that you would never know that it is a quarter of a century in age! His truck, which still runs great, has 260,000 miles on it -- but by the appearance of it you would guess that it's about 10 years old. I'm hoping to get as many years out of my Silverado as he has out of his. I've included a photo of my Dad with his truck.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


When I was a Sophomore in high school (back in 1980), the obesity rate in the U.S. for youth ages 12 to 19 was five percent. Now, about 40 years later, it is 20 percent. Yes, 20 PERCENT! American teenagers are heavier than ever and it has become such a 'norm' in our society that people are truly just accepting it as the new normal.

What about adults? Adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in nine states, 30 percent in 31 states, and 25 percent in 48 states. Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest adult obesity rate at 39 percent and Colorado has the lowest at 23 percent. Between 2017 and 2018, the adult obesity rate increased in Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, and Utah, it decreased in Alaska, and remained stable in the rest of states and in Washington D.C.

Yesterday, one of my sons -- who is in attendance at a university -- sent me a text to tell me that he was writing a paper about obesity and that he was including information about me and my ultra-endurance running endeavors to promote youth health and fitness. It's nice to know that my son remembers what I did many years ago when he was between the ages of 6 and 11.

I have written countless times in this blog about America's (and the world's) obesity problem. Unfortunately, things are not getting better. I'm proud of my son for writing about the topic in one of his university classes. It's going to take young people talking more about it in order to turn things around. I'm in my mid-50s and I can often see the eyes of young people glaze over when I start to talk about America's obesity issue. However, younger voices stand a greater chance of actually being listened to. So, let's go young people! Get talking about it, and then get to changing it!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, October 11, 2019

Scientific and Technical Inventions and Innovations Since 1965

A recent conversation with my 21-year-old son, Kyler, was about technology and advancements that have occurred over my lifetime. I took a look at some of the most prominent and/or popular inventions for each year since my birth in 1965.

In fact, there have been numerous scientific and technological innovations that many would say have revolutionized our lives, including:
  • 1965 -- Kevlar (body armor)
  • 1966 -- Surveyor 1 Satellite
  • 1967 -- Coronary Bypass Surgery
  • 1968 -- Integrated Computer Systems
  • 1969 -- Smoke Detector
  • 1970 -- Fiber Optics
  • 1971 -- Floppy Disk
  • 1972 -- Electronic Ignition
  • 1973 -- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • 1974 -- Rubik’s Cube
  • 1975 -- Digital Camera
  • 1976 -- Supercomputer
  • 1977 -- Video Game Console
  • 1978 -- Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • 1979 -- Sony Walkman
  • 1980 -- Compact Disc
  • 1981 -- Personal Computer
  • 1982 -- Artificial Heart
  • 1983 -- Microsoft Word
  • 1984 -- DNA Fingerprinting
  • 1985 -- Microsoft Windows
  • 1986 -- Electronic Mailing List
  • 1987 -- Disposable Camera
  • 1988 -- Caller ID
  • 1989 -- World Wide Web
  • 1990 -- Photoshop
  • 1991 -- First Internet Website Launched
  • 1992 -- Text Messaging
  • 1993 -- Cell Phone
  • 1994 -- Sony PlayStation
  • 1995 -- Scroll Wheel (on a computer mouse)
  • 1996 -- DVD
  • 1997 -- Hybrid Car
  • 1998 -- International Space Station
  • 1999 -- Bluetooth Version 1.0
  • 2000 -- Camera Phone
  • 2001 -- Wikipedia
  • 2002 -- Blu-ray Disc
  • 2003 -- Digital Guitar
  • 2004 -- Facebook
  • 2005 -- Google Maps
  • 2006 -- Nintendo Wii
  • 2007 -- iPhone
  • 2008 -- Android-powered smartphone
  • 2009 -- Bitcoin
  • 2010 -- Siri
  • 2011 -- Medical Mirror
  • 2012 -- Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset
  • 2013 -- Google Glass
  • 2014 -- The Selfie Stick
  • 2015 -- Self-balancing 'Hoverboard' Scooter
  • 2016 -- Amazon Echo
  • 2017 -- Fidget Spinners
  • 2018 -- Metal 3D Printing
  • 2019 -- Solar Roadways
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Have You Ever Heard of the St. Therese of Lisieux Sacrifice Beads?

I was recently given some very special beads by my friend, Rita — who is the Director of Religious Education at the church my family attends. The background of the beads begins with St. Therese of Lisieux, a Patron Saint of Missions that died of an illness at the young age of 24, back in 1897. As a Carmelite nun, she actually never went on missions, never founded a religious order, and never performed great works. However, her conscious choice to do good deeds and to make little daily sacrifices showed that even the smallest of gestures can have a profound and lasting impact.

As a child, St. Therese of Lisieux carried a string of beads with her, to count the little gifts of sacrifice and virtue she offered to God every day. She wrote: “What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love.” The beads, which are in my pocket and not just for kids, are a simple way to keep count of little acts of love and sacrifice offered to God. A bead is pulled toward the cross for each act — and it stays in place. Ten beads... ten daily acts! Thank you, Rita, for my 'Good Deed Beads!'

1 Timothy 6:6 — "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I Wore a Pink Dress for 8 Hours -- But Kept My Head Out of The Toilet!

I was recently digging in the back of my closet and came across a shirt that I've had since 1980 -- when I was a Sophomore in high school. In fact, it's the oldest piece of clothing I have. You're probably wondering why in the world I would keep a shirt for nearly 40 years... a shirt that I haven't worn since I was 15 years old. Well, there's a story behind the shirt!

First of all, I must say that the shirt is in pretty good condition after nearly 4 decades! It's a blue Adidas shirt with three white stripes down each arm. I probably only wore the shirt a couple dozen times before it got pushed to the back of my dresser -- but somehow it always managed to make it into a moving box as I relocated here and there throughout the years.

At the start of my 10th grade year in August 1980, I joined the high school cross country running team. I had a good season running with the varsity squad and "lettered" -- earning another running pin to my high school letter jacket. Immediately after the cross country season, I was invited to pledge to our high school's Lettermans' Club. The club was for those who earned a varsity high school letter and wanted to join other letterman in promoting the school and (supposedly) be role models. However, getting in the club was actually an experience I'll never forget.

Back in 1980, the high school I attended allowed the seniors to control the "initiation" process into Lettermans' Club. I'm sure that many of the tactics that they employed back then would result in suspensions if done in today's academic world. The instructions I was given by the senior Lettermen were clear: Show up at the school Monday morning at 6:30 A.M. to begin a day of "initiation." That was it! I remember showing up at the crack of dawn one late October day at my Alaska high school along with 6 other brave guys willing to do what was necessary to get into the club. Girls were also allowed to go through initiation, but they were separate from the guys.

I recall standing shoulder to shoulder with other wide-eyed guys facing the senior Letterman on a sidewalk next to the school... in the dark... seeing nothing more than the cold fog from each breath we let out. The first challenge was to run around the entire school as fast as possible. The first one to complete the challenge wouldn't have to do the next challenge. Suffice it to say, I wasn't going to lose -- and I didn't. By doing so, I didn't have to get a candy bar out of the toilet with only my mouth! Yes, that was the sort of thing that went on!

We were then brought inside and taken to the boys' locker room, where we had to strip down to nothing but our underwear. We were given girl dresses to put on (mine was pink with a white lace around the collar) and were instructed to wear them all day until school was dismissed at 3:00 PM. If we took our dress off, we were eliminated from consideration for Letterman's Club. I put the dress on and then felt a slap to the top of my head from behind. One of the seniors had slapped grease on my head and I was told to keep it on all day... under a little plastic red fireman's hat, which clashed badly with my pink dress. I recall having to cross my legs in class the entire day, and the amount of whistles and teasing I endured for the next 8 hours was terrible. Regardless, I wore the dress and fireman's hat all day.

We were told that whenever a Lettermans' Club senior told you to do something in between classes, we were to do it or be eliminated. One of my most embarrassing moments came when a senior put a roll of toilet paper on the crowded hallway floor and told me to roll it up a ramp -- while on my hands and knees -- using only my nose. Of course, in my pink dress and fireman's hat, it wasn't easy, and my backside was exposed several times as my dress was lifted up by others. However, I managed to accomplish the challenge... but definitely lost dignity in the process!

There were other challenges that we had to do, some before school and some after. For instance, when we were told to undress before being given our girl dresses to put on, we were blindfolded temporarily -- which was just long enough for the senior Letterman to bring some girls into the locker room to see us standing there in just our underwear. Again, if some of their actions were done today, they would likely be suspended or expelled. We had to do a naked obstacle course, or sorts, in the locker room and other embarrassing tasks. Regardless, I endured the entire day and was given the shirt that I've had for almost 40 years.

Every time I look at the shirt I remember what I endured to get it... the humiliation, the teasing, the downright juvenile and idiotic treatment. It was as though I willingly accepted being bullied just to get into a club of morons. I guess the shirt is a reminder to me that a person should never put aside their principles or shelve their self respect for the mere amusement of others and a chance to join a club. At the end of the school day I handed the senior Lettermen the pink dress with one hand and took the blue Adidas shirt with my other hand. The shirt meant that I was in the club, and I took it home.

It was then that my father announced, to my great surprise, that our family would be moving out of town within the month. All that I had endured was for nothing. However, the humiliating experience did instill in me a deep conviction to never again compromise my principles or self respect. It was my first and last initiation experience!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso