I've written more than one paper about the truth that we humans are created in the image of God and what that might mean about us. Every once in a while I have a wave of realization regarding this truth...like I see it so clearly for a few seconds. God is clearly a God of compassion and a God who values relationship...because we humans, in the image of God, need relationship so desperately. We need to be loved and to love, to have compassion poured out on us in our grief and to pour that compassion out on others.
Seven days from the start of the Iditarod, a dog named Snickers, who was beloved by musher Karen Ramstead, died at the Grayling checkpoint. Here are some particularly poignant things Karen said about the people of Grayling and the Iditarod race (http://www.northwapiti.com/indexSnickers.html):
"I was also very touched by the compassion and genuine sympathy from the Iditarod volunteers and the residents of Grayling. They made a horrible time somewhat more bearable. And warm thanks to fellow mushers Cindy Gallea and Bryan Mills. Cindy graciously offered her skills to help hold off veins during Snickers transfusion - and Bryan Mills, in a move so kind it makes my heart ache, offered to travel to Nome with me should I decide to stay in the Race, so I wouldn't have to be alone.
That's one of the things about Iditarod, it often strips you bare and shows you for what you really are - and in the case of the folks in Grayling it showed what remarkable people they all really are."
A race is a competition, by nature. What a beautiful show of compassion for Bryan Mills to offer to give up his place in the race, whatever it might be, to accompany a fellow human being in grief. Again, I see how this is a race that is about finishing, not necessarily about where you place. He knew that Karen might wish to continue and he offered to be a companion. For Karen, the grief was too much, and she went home where she could be cared for by family and friends. Yet, the offer sticks with her, a balm in the midst of grief.
The stories of kindness along the trail are trickling in as the mushers come trickling in under the finish line banner. People call this the Last Great Race on Earth. I think I'm hooked on it, and I think I would have to agree. I love it when sports are about more than the game. ...not about whether you win or lose but how you play the game... Because that, after all, is how we run the race of life - certainly not to get to the finish line first, but to play hard and to play well.