a decision we must make
2nd place || 2022
7th through 8th grade


by Annika Bessingpas


High up in the Appalachian Mountains, winter comes early, and in these villages, most of the children pass their time with skiing and tobogganing down the foothills. For families high up in the mountains, where the roads are never plowed, skiing is necessary to go to church, buy groceries, or visit neighbors. Teenagers race each other down the mountains.

On this January day, many of the older boys and girls decided to have a ski race, finishing at the foot of the mountain. As there were fifteen of them, the race was done in heats, with the goal of the winners of each heat racing at the end.

Anna Wagner and Christie Johnson were two of these girls, but they did not get along well. It was clear, as an older boy started the race, that one of the two would win, but the one who lost would not lose without a fight.

The two were neck-and-neck the whole way, and as they neared the end, Christie put out her ski pole and deliberately tripped Anna. The act was so discreet nobody saw her do it, and Anna fell to the ground as Christie glided victoriously across the finish line.

“She tripped me,” Anna said to her little brother Will, who couldn’t race because he had a sprained ankle from being tripped by Christie a few days before.

“I know,” answered Will. “I saw. I don’t like her; not one little bit. She’s mean.”

“Calm down,” said their older cousin Heidi. “What Christie did was wrong. However, it is a mark of true humility to accept both victory and defeat graciously. Whether you win or lose, it is through seeking the Lord’s help that we can succeed.”

This made sense to Anna, and as she realized that it was good advice, she decided to apply it. Will, however, was still mad at Christie for hurting both him and his sister.

That night, there was a blizzard, and the mountain passes were blanketed in an almost unconquerable layer of whiteness.

The next morning, Anna was skiing down the mountain to buy groceries for her family. Though she needed to concentrate on skiing safely, she instead found herself thinking about Christie. A wave of anger and bitterness flooded over her. Her mother would remind her, it’s just a game. In her head, she could even hear Heidi saying, “Winning isn’t everything.” Yet still, in her heart, she felt mad, though she knew it was wrong.

Anna, distracted by her thoughts, slipped and tumbled down the face of the mountain, saved from death only by a little ledge that overlooked the valley below. She was startled, hurt, and alone.

It was not too long before another skier came down the mountain, and Anna’s cries for help soon reached the ears of this skier.

“What’s wrong?”

It was Heidi.

“I’ll help you. Take off your skis.”

Anna took off her skis, held them up, and was pulled up slowly with Heidi’s help.

Heidi was in a hurry, and so she soon skied ahead of Anna, who took a different route, passing Christie’s home. She remembered Christie again, and her thoughts were nowhere near pleasant.

A good half-mile later, she came across Christie, sprawled out right in the middle of the path, likely injured. Remembering what Christie had done to her and her brother, Anna was inclined to overlook Christie’s misfortune.

But then she remembered the story she had been told: A certain man… fell among thieves who stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Then a priest came by, as well as a Levite after him, and both saw what happened but moved to the other side of the road. Then came the Samaritan, who was a complete stranger, and he had compassion on the wounded man. When Jesus had finished telling the story, He had said, ‘Go, and do thou likewise.’

This was not the road from Jerusalem to Jericho where this story had taken place, but there were many similarities. Anna knew she shouldn’t pass to the other side of the road as the priest and the Levite had, but rather, she should help Christie.

Anna knelt down by Christie, helped her onto her feet, and brought her home. Christie didn’t say much, but Anna knew she was grateful. She had done what the Samaritan had done when he had helped the wounded man, and she was glad for that.

Anna didn’t want to partake in the ski race the next day but watched on with Heidi. Will was feeling well enough to race, and together he and Christie were leading the race, though in the end it looked as though Christie won. Whether or not she had played fairly, Anna couldn’t tell, for when Christie crossed the finish line, Anna noticed Will turn around and give Christie a high-five.

Annika likes to write, read, and explore at her home in Minnesota, where she lives with her family.