The GPS on my phone led Sammie and me straight to Chester Skateland in Chester, Virginia, somewhere between Richmond and Petersburg. As we pulled into the parking lot, my mind wandered back to the last time we had visited a skating rink.
It had been many years ago, when our daughters were between the ages that some of our grandkids are now. The skating rink behind the old K-Mart in Bristol was almost as popular as the bowling alley across town ... back then.
We quit taking the girls and sold their skates in a yard sale after our youngest daughter, Stacia, broke her arm — a second time — while skating. She had actually fallen while skating on the sidewalk in front of our house, but trying to run with wheels on their feet — anywhere — suddenly seemed like a bad idea.
That was many years ago, but it wasn’t nearly so long ago as my childhood memories of a skating rink in western Kentucky. Many a Friday night, when I was in fifth and sixth grade, a group of us loaded up in my parents’ station wagon and my mother drove us 11 miles north on US 41 to the skating rink in Slaughters, Kentucky. There we would rent a pair of skates and hold hands while trying to make it all the way around without falling.
Other than keeping the floor clean with the bottom of my britches, I mostly remember the wooden rails that circled the skating floor (they were worn smooth by little hands trying not to dust the floor); and the pot-belly stove that warmed the drafty old building on cold nights. It sat a comfortable distance from the skaters, but still generated enough sweat to smell up the old Ford on the ride back to Madisonville.
But ... back to Chester Skateland. Our daughter, Stephanie, led us inside and helped us spot Allen, Lawrence and James David in the group of roller hockey players. I was impressed at their agility as they warmed up. Inline skates were invented many years after I was James David’s age trying to stay on my feet with wheels on my boots in Slaughters. I probably wouldn’t have been much better in the new skates than the old ones, but our grandsons and the others were all over the place, hockey sticks in hands, pushing a ball/puck toward the goal in the roller hockey match.
James David put forth a valiant effort, but the other team ended up winning the match. Every week the teams are different — they choose up each time — and this time Allen and Lawrence were on one team, while James David was on the other. The final score was 2-1, and Lawrence put the ball/puck into the net for one of the goals for the winners. It was so exciting. After the final buzzer and the boys were pulling off helmets and skates, I told James David that I hoped to see him playing for the Nashville Predators, someday, but he would have to really work hard.
Does the Bible mention competition and sporting events? Not football, basketball, rugby, or hockey; obviously, none of those were invented when the Bible was completed. But it does refer to running, boxing, and wrestling. Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I’ve finished the course ... and there’s a reward.”
When we don our helmets and boots (or skates?) we need to press toward the mark. Do you have any spiritual goals out there in front of you? All of us should have. Slapping a puck into the net; making a buzzer beating basket; scampering into the end zone; or knocking it out of the park ... all those are important. But finishing the race of life as a winner is the only thing that will really matter ... in the end.
Steve Playl, columnist and college instructor, former pastor and hospital chaplain, can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.