While living in Alaska I was exposed to “The Last Great Race.” That is the phrase used to describe the dog race across Alaska named the Iditarod. Racers start in Anchorage and travel almost 1,000 miles to the city of Nome. There are actually two different routes that they take on alternating years. While it is not a big event for the Lower 48, it is huge in Alaska. It makes front page news in the paper and school children track the race and its participants. During my time in Homer I learned a lot about the race and dog racing in general.
One interesting fact about the race is that they give out a special “Red Lantern” Award each year. This award is given to the person who comes in last in the race. It started as a joke in 1953 during the Fur Rendezvous Race. It then was passed over to the Iditarod. Today, it is a symbol of perseverance and mushers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when receiving it. Those who do not finish the race receive nothing, but for those who travel the 1,000 miles in the cold, snow and wind there is pride in just finishing the race.
I love this tradition. Most of us will never finish first. We will never be considered the greatest. We will not have our picture plastered all over the front of newspapers and magazines. Most of us are called to simply keep doing what God called us to do. We attend Church, serve faithfully, love our spouse and raise our children faithfully without recognition. Sticking to our task is not glorious but incredibly important. I honestly believe more “Red Lanterns” should be given out than MVP awards. God does not call us to be the best at anything He calls us to be faithful.