You know, I've wracked my brain - not an exercise in heavy lifting, mind you - and I can't remember a single first day of school.
Oh, I remember some last days, like when my little brother fell off the bleachers and broke his arm, and I had to go to the hospital with him and miss my seventh-grade party. Or the day Doug Morris went home early, got his motorbike and zoomed up and down the dirt road in front of the school to the consternation of the faculty. Or the day some hotrodder at Harlem High, intending to roar past the school, instead stripped his drive shaft - which went clanking down the street as he coasted to a humiliating stop.
But I'm blank about my first days.
Even if my memory is bad, first days are great because we all like fresh starts. The folks at River Ridge Elementary School get to start off with a new school; everything they do will set their own historical precedent. A few miles away, everything at Evans Middle school will be the opposite; with the school moving to a new location, it will be the last time anything happens at the Washington Road campus.
At the Paschal house, today is the first time my youngest will attend a school where her mother isn't staffing the main office. Annie starts middle school today, and a few miles away her elementary principal mom will feel a little void on her campus.
Aug. 3, 2005 is the first day of school in Columbia County. I may not remember my own, but I hope it's memorable in all the good ways for the nearly 21,000 children headed to the public schools today - including two of my own. Here's wishing for a great year for all of them.
I'd kept quiet. But the last straw was flipping through the channels and seeing televangelist Rexanna van Impe gushing about Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France for the seventh time.
Her husband, Jack van Impe, then joined the accolades with a string of Bible verses about victory in physical contests.
I guess no one told them. Nor did they pass it along to all the churchgoing folks wearing those yellow "LiveStrong" bracelets:
Armstrong rejects their religion.
A lot of people call Armstrong an atheist; a spokesman for the Livestrong Foundation denies it, saying flatly, "Lance is not an atheist." But he certainly isn't a "theist," either.
In his autobiography, he talks about his "distrust of organized religion," and says he hopes living a good life is enough to get him into heaven.
Normally I don't wander around much in religion-land, preferring to avoid the fanatics who dominate such topics. (Like the sweet lady who loaded me up with tracts a couple of years ago for pointing out that Jesus turned water into wine; she insists it was just grape juice.)
It is a challenge to believers of all stripes, especially Christians, when someone with a story as powerful as Armstrong's rejects a divine hand in his success.
Let's face it: One way to discourage religious faith is to encourage belief in human heroics. Every yellow bracelet, even in a sea of colorful imitators, provides encouragement to cancer victims. But it also sends the message that survival is entirely in the human hands attached to the wrists those bracelets adorn.
While we're on the topic of religion, Savannah Diocese Bishop J. Kevin Boland, in a press release Monday, emphasizes that St. Teresa of Avila's Father Robert Cushing is representing only himself when he travels to Japan this week to "apologize" for the World War II atomic bombings.
The statement also says Cushing "is and remains vicar of St. Teresa." But it leaves the door open to Cushing's rumored transfer, sidestepping the controversy by noting that Boland "does not discuss personnel matters publicly."
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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