Today I celebrate my 79th birthday and begin my 80th year–or ninth decade–on the Planet Earth. What that means for anyone my age or older, is that the finish line is coming into sight though still hazy and (hopefully) some years away. I choose that image carefully. Life for us humans—and perhaps for all creatures—is a race. There is a start and a finish for every life. Before the start we do not know how long the race will last or what obstacles will stand in our way or what shape we will be in when we finish.
Will the course be long, or will it be short? Will it be flat and smooth or rocky and hilly? Will we fight monsters along the way? Will we dust ourselves off and keep going when we stumble? Will we break an ankle or a leg? Will we help fellow racers who fall? When we cross the finish line, will we feel victorious or sad or just relieved that the race is over?
For many years I was a serious runner. I was never all that fast but loved long distance running and participated in a whole bunch of 10-milers, a couple of half marathons and one full marathon (the 1984 Marine Corps Marathon, which I did not finish but made my goal of 20 miles—for me a major achievement). I remember the feeling when I would cross the finish line, having given the effort all I had. Since I always was toward the back of the pack, I was not competing against anyone, just trying to do my best. But what a feeling of relief and pride when I crossed the finish line even though the leaders in the race had long before departed for home.
The questions as we stumble across the finish line of life’s race are these: So how well did you run the race? Did you give it your best effort? Did you help others along the way? Did you make a difference?
How you answer these questions in your heart of hearts will determine whether you finish with pride or regret or just relief that at last the race is over.