For the past seventeen years, on the fourth Thursday of February, I'd feed my kids spaghetti, bundle them up, strap on the racing bibs, and then take them to the Barneberkie starting line.

At the kickoff festivities, a sea of eager little faces anticipate the daunting wilderness trek before them -- a whole kilometer or two -- all the way through the golf course, by the armory, past the school and down Main Street, amid a cheering throng of spectators ringing cowbells.

Yep, I'm a Barnebirkie veteran -- 17 years worth! Most of those years, I've accompanied at least one of my children all the way down to the finish line -- shouting little encouragements all along the way. "Way to go! You're doing great!! Keep it up!! Don't quit!! Look! Look! All these people are cheering for you!"

My fondest memories are when I've taken my pre-school aged children on this pilgrimage for the first time. (with five kids, that means multiple firsts!)

For a three year old, the Barnie is much larger than life. Overwhelming at times. Impossible. There are so many big kids -- and it's such a long way to go! (Especially when the mercury is hovering at around five or ten below zero.)
There are falls -- and scrapes -- and shovers -- and bumps -- and runny noses -- and tears. It's loud. It's crowded. It can even be a bit frightening (Why, there are even a couple of huge Norsemen with spears skiing around.)

For the three year old's Daddy, the race becomes bigger than the Winter Olympics -- and far, far more important than how the Italians fare on Saturday. The only thing that matters is getting the kid to the finish line.

I'll never forget, after a few shaky starts, rounding the bend onto Main Street, with my little ones, and seeing hundreds of friendly faces: waving, smiling, cheering, and clanging their cowbells. "Keep going! Keep going! You're almost there!"

Once we hit the final stretch, it's a fresh burst of inspiration all the way to the finish line -- where every kid gets a medal, a cup of hot cider, and a big cookie.

Everyone goes home a winner.

Unstrapping the skis, I can't help but wonder if there just might be a lesson in life tucked away somewhere in that experience.


Anonymous said…
Maybe this is it: Everyone goes home a winner (and not a whiner)!
Anonymous said…
Seems to me the one who calls others a whiner is usually the biggest whiner himself/herself.
Anonymous said…
aw, quit yer whining!
Anonymous said…
Doesn't seem like anyone is willing to sign a name. Oh well!

Keetha said…
I'll sign mine. :-)

I think it is GREAT that you do this with your kids.

When I was growing up in your fair community, we didn't HAVE the barnebiner - - - but I DID ice skate in a little outdoor rink kitty corner from what was THEN the elementary school - - - in ALL kinds of weather- - - hours on end- - - with nothing but a three sided shelter to "warm up" in - - - barefoot - - - uphill both ways - - - you get the picture!!! ;-)
Kathy Baker said…
I went the Barnebirkie for the first time this year. It is quite the experience. Destiny was in it for the first time (1st grader). One lesson I took from this race of skiers was this: We are all running the race for Christ. We are all at different stages in our journey, some of us are just little ones, some are middle schoolers, and some are more seasoned just on the sidelines cheering us on. We are all important and have an important role. The age, the speed doesn't matter: In the end we will all be winners!!! The prize is to see Christ face to face.
Kathy Baker said…
I attended my first barnebirkie today. It was cold and fun. I went to watch Destiny (1st grader). I think the lesson I took away from this is this: We are all a part of the race for Christ. We are all at different stages in the race. Some are the little 3 year olds, some are elementary, some are middle schoolers, some are seasoned veterans on the sidelines cheering us on, and some are there guiding us on our way (teachers, preachers, etc). No matter what stage in life we are, we are all heading for the one goal where we will all win the ultimate prize!! Seeing Christ face to face. See you at the finish line Pastor Mark!

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