Masonry Matters

July 24, 2015

It comes to a sober surprise to many, that there are high school seniors in the Commonwealth of Kentucky who are destitute. By that I mean, there are those who do not have money to meet even the basic needs and wants of a high school student. Even in the most thriving school districts, there are young men and women enrolled in our public schools who cannot afford to go to basketball games, pay fees for certain extra curricula activity, or expenses to participate in such constructive activities as band, debate team, or cheerleading.

A high school principal in one of the more prosperous school systems reports that he had one student who did not have decent clothes to wear to school. When proper ones were bought for him, they were promptly stolen at home. Consequently, clothes were bought for him, kept at school for him to change in and out of each day upon arriving and leaving school.

Some schools have resources upon which to rely in order to meet some of these needs. Many, if not most do not. Even with those schools which can turn to giving hands, there is still always more need than money.

So, upon this great need, Masonry Matters was born.

Local lodges in the counties are coming together to conduct joint collections or fund raising efforts for the needy children in their local schools. The lodges jointly make their contribution to the respective principals to go toward the needs of these young students. The only condition placed upon the gift, it that it be given according to need, without regard to color, creed or gender, and that the recipient simply be told, “it’s from the Masons”. We trust our school principals with the rest.

The declining membership in Free Masons speaks to the growing apathy toward our great fraternity. With our ancient signs and symbols, we are perceived as no longer relevant in today’s society. And to some extent, and sadly, this has become true.

But to the young man who gets to play the trumpet in the high school band, or the young girl who gets to attend her one and only prom, we become very relevant, when we give them this precious opportunity.

Nothing can be more productive for our country than to give to the mental, spiritual, and cultural growth of our young. Nothing can sell Masonry more than for a youngster to be told, “the local Masons care about you.” That young man so assisted or the brother of that young girl given aid may be so inspired by our gifts as to want to know more about our order, and eventually become members. At the very least, this very critical segment of our society will know from heart warming experience that Masonry Matters.

Helmetless Riders

July 11, 2015

I read in the newspaper this morning where another motorcyclist has been killed on a Kentucky highway. He was not wearing a helmet.
While I was in the Army, I rode a motorcycle all over Europe. I’ve been at the throttle of a two wheeler pushing one hundred miles per hour in the left lane on a German autobahn. I was running from a huge Mercedes on my tail flashing its lights for me to get out of the way. I had no place to go. The right lane would be clogged with slow moving lorries. I’ve driven swiftly and sometimes desperately through the narrow and twisted streets of the ancient ports of Trieste, Ostende, Holyhead, and Split. One day I received a harrowing police escort through the large port city of Newcastle, England, by a motorcycle cop. He was generously trying to get me to the ferry before it departed. My whole life flashed before me.
I’ve driven a motorcycle across our beautiful United States. The eye popping scenery along the Snake River in Idaho had to be seen from a narrow road following the stream with mirroring twists and turns. I’ve negotiated hair pin curves while riding on two wheels over the deep crevices in the Rockies. I’ve had snow spitting in my face in Montana when it was 90 degrees in Kentucky. You haven’t been drenched and desperate at the same time until you are caught on a motorcycle in downtown Memphis during a blinding downpour, searching frantically for an underpass.
I still have a motorcycle license.
What does all this have to do with anything? I say all that to say the following with at least a smidgen of credibility. All the money in the USA couldn’t get me to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. It would take even more loot for me to put someone I love—girlfriend or wife—on the motorcycle with me, without a helmet. (Almost 90% of all motorcycle passengers killed are women.)
My dog Julep use to ride the motorcycle with me. If there had been helmets for dogs, I’d had one on her.
There are no fender benders on a motorcycle. Only serious accidents. I had a good friend who didn’t make a curve, ran off the road at moderate speed and took a tumble. He got up, said a few words, collapsed into a coma and died. The bike was virtually undamaged. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. If he had, he’d be alive today. There was a heart stabbing twist to this tragedy. He had just bought the bike and was on his way home to get his head gear.
In 1968, Kentucky enacted a helmet law for all motorcycle riders. Then, thirty years later in 1998, that law was repealed. Now only operators under the age of 21, those riding on learning permits, or those who’ve had a license for less than one year are required to wear helmets while riding motorcycles.
Kentucky is listed near the top of the states which had the largest drop in helmet use after the repeal of the law. Shame on us. Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida are the only states in the south without a helmet law. Again, shame on us.
Here are some facts you need to know from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
· Motorcycle fatalities increased by over 50% after Kentucky’s helmet law was repealed.
· In 2014 there were 1,275 motorcycle injuries and 76 fatalities in Kentucky. Of those injured, 688 were not wearing a helmet. Of those killed, 46 were not wearing a helmet.
· For every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of those 100 could have been saved had they been wearing a helmet.
· Forty-one percent of motorcycle operators and 50% of motorcycle passengers who died in 2010 nationwide were not wearing a helmet.
I know this is getting tiresome. So we’ll end with this. Nationwide, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37%. They reduce the risk of head injury by 69%. That’s not a misprint—69%!
The argument against a helmet law is appealing. “My own safety is my business. It invades my own individual liberty to force me to wear a helmet.”
Of course the reasoning is flawed. Motorcycles travel on public highways. Your death or injury upon the public highways affects us all. When a cyclist goes down on the highway, we all go down. The young daughter growing up without a mother is stricken. The elderly and infirmed father is deprived of an only son. An empty chair sits at the holiday meal.
There are things worse than death. A perpetual coma or total paralysis for years is not out of the picture for head injuries sustained by a helmetless rider. Medical and nursing costs can run into the millions. Most families cannot afford it. They keep their loved one alive with the help of costs shared by taxpayers everywhere. The national economic burden from crash-related injuries and deaths in one year alone totals 12 billion dollars. Your carelessness may well become the business of strangers.
Here’s what Lt. Col. James Champagne, former Executive Director of Louisiana Safety Commission says. “You can talk about freedom of choice, but when other people have to pay for the consequences of that choice, then it’s not freedom of choice at all.”
There is another dimension no one ever considers. Unless you’ve been one of those unfortunate souls who have been involved in a fatal traffic accident which was not your fault, you will not fully understand. The person killed would have lived, had they worn their seat belt—or wore their helmet. You are innocent. But you are also a human being. You are sensitive to the loss of human life in an accident in which you were involved. You have sleepless nights. Though totally without fault, you carry this searing memory to your grave.
The real pros I see on motorcycles today are the ones dressed in leather trousers and jackets. And of course they are wearing good helmets. Leathers are expensive and can be unbearable in the summer. But I wouldn’t bike without a helmet if I was cruising down the golden streets of the New Jerusalem in heavenly weather.
I see the helmetless riders on the road today and I cringe. I see the imaginary words written across their backs, “it won’t happen to me.” It saddens me. These are such nice people riding motorcycles today. I want to say something. But I don’t. My wife and grown children keep me in ample supply of “none of your business.” Instead, I’m writing these words.
So, if you have loved ones who ride motorcycles without helmets, you might consider cutting out this article and giving it to them. Chances are very slim that it will do any good. But at least you would have tried.