Monday, March 1, 2021

I (like many) Have Been Viewed as a "Hero" and a "Zero." That's Life.

A "Hero" is defined as a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. In October 2006 -- after I had completed my solo run across the United States simply to keep a promise to a group of elementary students -- I had some people tell me that I was a hero. In fact, the world-renowned Mayo Clinic bestowed upon me the "Health Hero Award" for my 15-state coast-to-coast accomplishment. Honestly, I've never considered myself a "hero" for anything that I've done in my life. I've simply aimed to do the best that I can in each situation that I've been presented with. There are times when I've experienced great success, and times when I've fallen into significant failure. In the eyes of some, I'm sure there have been moments when they've viewed me as a hero, and times when they've viewed me as a zero. Is that difficult for me? Not really. That's simply called life.

My 56th birthday is coming up soon and as I look back on the past 20,000+ days on this earth I can recall times when I've viewed the actions and choices of others as being heroic... a fireman who saved a small child from a burning building; a kind soul who changed the life of a homeless person; and, a saint who was put to death as a result of staying true to his faith. There are heroes all around us -- people to admire for their character qualities and achievements. However, it is our Heavenly Father who is the Ultimate Hero! God gave us His son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for our sins -- saving mankind and creating a way for us to be with God forever. Unlike earthly heroes, God will never let us down. There are many places in Scripture where God says that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will be with us wherever we go. That cannot be said of earthly heroes, because they -- like us -- are sinful mortals.

I remember very well the first time a "hero" let me down. It was in 1979 when I was fourteen years of age. My eldest brother was ten years older than I and had been serving in the military for several years. When he would travel back to our home state to visit, I was always impressed with his appearance. He was much taller than I, looked distinguished in his military uniform, and had a smile that could brighten a room. He was a Christian, played guitar, and enjoyed running -- all things that would become a part of my own life. I truly looked up to him and in many ways he was my hero when I was in junior high. However, he made a choice that took away his 'hero' status in my life. For selfish reasons that only he truly understands, he chose to cut all ties with his family and move away with his new bride -- never to be seen or heard from again. Yes, it has been 42 years since my eldest brother disappeared from my life. I don't know if he's dead or alive... but after 42 years I live as though he died decades ago.

I went through stages -- disbelief; confusion; anger; sadness; letting go; and, eventually acceptance. It was truly a grieving process. The last time I saw him was when I was competing in an eight grade track meet. I had won all of my races and he came up to me on the infield of the track, congratulated me, and told me that I was a very good runner and that I should continue to develop my running abilities. I remember that he was rather serious as he told me that. Then, he said he would see me later. He turned and walked away across the infield. I would never see him again. It was that day when my brother went from being a hero in my life to being a zero in my life -- completely absent without even a goodbye. I've written before in this blog about other people in my life who have made similar choices. All that I can say in my heart is Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.

As I begin to enter the autumn season of life, I no longer have earthly heroes. Many times, "hero" status is fleeting and often leads to disappointment for those who look upon others as heroes. These days, I set my eyes and heart heavenward to Jesus Christ -- a hero to more than two billion people worldwide. The word "hero" comes from the Latin, heros, meaning, "defender, protector" and "to save, deliver, preserve, protect." Closely related to the word "hero" is "Savior" -- which comes from the Latin, salvatorem, meaning "one who delivers or rescues from peril" or "heals." Jesus is infinitely higher above all other heroes, and He is the only Hero and Savior that I need.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"Back To My Life" -- My Final Words After Running Across America

On October 20, 2006 I completed my 3,260-mile, 108-day, 15-state solo run across the United States. I had averaged 30 miles per day from the Oregon coast to the Delaware shore, being disconnected from the routine happenings in my life as a 41-year-old father of four children. After it was all over, I was contacted by a reporter for one last interview. In the article he described me as a "lithe, sinewy man" and shared a few details about my journey. At the end of the interview, he asked me what I would be doing next. I paused a moment, reflecting on the endeavor I had just completed. Then, I said four words which would become the final words of his article: "Back to my life."

During that June to October adventure, people had seen me as simply an ultra-endurance runner reaching for the horizon day after day in hopes of making it to the Atlantic Ocean. I was just an odd spectacle seen along the road by many people as they headed to work, dashed to the grocery store, or were on their way home from one of their kid's activities. Some believed I was homeless, a vagabond, or out of sorts... mentally. Many passed me by without a glance, some were annoyed at my presence along the road's edge, and a few attempted to run me into the ditch. Not many people understood what all of my strides were about. Often, I was portrayed as a guy who was paying his dues for losing a bet. If you're not sure what that means, you'll want to read some of these previous posts: Keeping A Promise -- What Does That Look Like In Action?Make Good on a Promise? Preposterous!; and, Is Keeping a Promise an Unrealistic Goal?.

Regardless of public perception of me from June until October 2006, after I ran into the Atlantic Ocean to complete that coast-to-coast challenge I had to get back to my life. Most people who read the four closing words of that article had no idea what "back to my life" really meant for Paul Staso. I think that some people just thought I was a guy constantly in motion -- running here, there and everywhere for no apparent reason. In fact, at the time I was operating my own business and was the father of four children between the ages of 6 and 13. My marriage of 19 years had been struggling in many ways and I was attempting to cope with that while still trying to be the best father that I could to my children. Although not planned at the outset, my run across America ended up being rather therapeutic for me. I was on the road for nearly four months alone with plenty of time to think and process the events and choices of my life. I was also well aware of what the words "Back to my life" meant and what was awaiting me.

Upon my return, I quickly realized that going back to my life would not be quite the same 'life' as the one I departed from when I took those initial steps away from Cannon Beach, Oregon on June 23, 2006. There were some ways in which life had indeed changed, and not necessarily for the better. Within five years of that run across America my marriage was ending and my business was crumbling. Most of my children were teenagers and busy with their friends and activities. I diligently aimed to keep hidden the emotional struggles that I was going through -- struggles that had been mounting for decades. I tried to focus on being a fun Dad... a fair Dad... a Dad that was decent, supportive, giving, and who would draw a parental line in the sand when one of my children tried to push the boundaries of what was acceptable -- as most teenagers do. Unfortunately, even the most loving intentions can go unnoticed and unappreciated.

I look back on the words "back to my life" and the season of life that I was in 15 years ago and can honestly say that my life is completely new. I've written in this blog about that. I'm blessed to be in my third year of marriage to a wonderful, loving, faith-filled woman; I now reside in the state of Indiana; and, I'm fortunate to not only be a father but also a step-father. I no longer operate my own business, but am in my seventh year working for a respected law firm. It has been 10 years since my last adventure run (across the Mojave Desert) and in May 2017 I retired from ultra-endurance running. I'm no longer Baptist, but Catholic; I teach junior high Sunday School; and, I have my eyes set on e-publishing a devotional for Catholic athletes -- as well as other e-books about my adventure runs, to be made available through Amazon and other e-book outlets. Life is not only good... it's great!

Never again will I say the words "back to my life," because I never intend on stepping outside of my usual life routine again as I did so many years ago when I was reaching for mileposts along lonely roads. God has lead me right to where He wants me to be, and I'm grateful for that.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,

"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future."

-- Jeremiah 29:11

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Despite Our Wayward Ways, God's Love is Steadfast -- Always.

It wasn't until the year 2020 that I became a Catholic. For 43 years prior to that, I was a Baptist. I was baptized in 1977 at the age of 12 at a Baptist church in Alaska. On June 28, 2020 I was blessed through the Rite of Christian Initiation to come into Full Communion with The Roman Catholic Church. Significant preparation and study were a part of that spiritual journey. My lovely wife, Kelley, has been a Catholic since the cradle and I have attended the Catholic church with her for many years. We attend Mass weekly and I'm blessed to be leading junior high faith formation (Sunday school).

For the past five years, I've written about a variety of topics in this blog. Most of those writings have not had anything to do with my faith. That is now going to change. If I'm going to post writings to this blog, those writings are going to be connected to my Catholic faith. I've spent a lot of time in prayer over the past year and have realized that I seem to give more credit to myself for the successes in my life than to the One from whom those successes actually flow. God is the One who has moved me from a life raft bobbing up and down in wayward seas to a steady ship that is guided by His wind and will. It is to Him that I give all gratitude, glory, honor and praise.

For those who have frequented my writings since I first began to post online in 2005, you will now see a change in tone... a change in focus. My writings will not be as frequent, but will be connected to my Catholic faith. If you've felt that your life has been like a cork bobbing up and down on uncontrollable seas, this blog may help -- in some small way -- to set your sights on the horizon and on what God can do when you give your life to Him. Others may criticize or judge you, but keep in mind that it is not to others that you must ultimately answer when you cross life's finish line.

Through God's plan for my athletic life, I've been blessed to run solo across the United States, Germany, Alaska, Montana, and the Mojave Desert. However, as Psalm 147:10-11 tells us: "He takes... no pleasure in the runner’s stride. Rather the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His mercy." God doesn't take pleasure in what I can accomplish with my legs. He wants me to fear him -- which means to have reverence for Him -- and to put my hope in Him. That's what God truly wants from me, and from all of us. Through my athletic career, the miles I've conquered add up to be nearly two laps of planet earth -- about 50,000 miles. Sadly, my past track record shows that I've given myself far more credit for those miles than I've given to God. As a Christian, that was wrong.

For countless years I actually lived the words of Romans 5:3 ("suffering produces endurance"). Then, my life seemed to be focused on the initial words of Romans 5:4 ("endurance produces character"). These days, the tide has turned and God has blessed my life with calm seas, easier sailing, and blessings that I never imagined on those days long ago when I wondered what was beyond the horizon for me. Now, my life is more focused on the second part of Romans 5:4 -- "character produces hope." God is indeed good... all the time.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),