The Race to Empower is a Chicago Mother’s Day race/walk to
raise money and awareness to fight against the dreaded disease of breast
cancer. This year marked the sixteenth annual event. It was my first experience of
being at this massive gathering in Grant Park, located in downtown Chicago.

My son-in-law Jason has been a part of this event for many
years, especially since his late mother died from a long struggle with breast cancer the
year before he married my daughter Stacy. Linda Kifer was deeply committed to living
her life with courage and dignity during seven hard years with cancer and gave a great deal to help this cause in the years prior to her passing away. I
wanted to share this experience with Jason as a “dad” and a friend.

Jason and Stacy own a martial arts academy called Superstar Karate. All of us, which included about
thirty students from the academy who came along, walked and ran (I walked). We all wore
black shirts that said: “Real Martial Artists Wear Pink.” This slogan was then
connected to the theme of the day and to this event. Our little dachshund Neo, who is
seen in the photo on this blog spot, got in on the walk this year too. Jason got Neo
her own shirt with the same slogan and do believe me when I say Neo was the hit of the day.
She must have had at least ten people stop us for a photo-op and everywhere we
went people pointed, laughed and talked about little Neo! And this is a dog that doesn’t
like to walk over our property line. In this massive crowd of over 40,000 she walked the entire race course in downtown Chicago and
showed off like a pure bred show dog. (She comes from a line of prize-winning show
dogs and it really became obvious today!)

I found myself quite amazed at the emotions that I saw.
Many people paid tribute to various loved ones, some lost to cancer, and some still struggling with cancer. The
element of pain and loss was very strong. Then there were the survivors who wanted to stand with
the people who struggle just as they do. There was a great feeling in this huge crowd and
a lot of good will between strangers. You felt like you were “part of something” that
mattered. People were friendly, spoke to each other, laughed and even talked
about this and that. I wondered, as I drove home, why so many churches cannot
experience this kind of relationship in a church crowd. I think it has something to do
with our basic inability to connect with real people in their pain, suffering and
joy.

I also think many boomer churches try to create this kind of
atmosphere and do it by seeking to generate, humanly speaking, an atmosphere
like that of “The Race to Empower.” I reject this approach since worship is not about
generating an atmosphere but rather about offering up to God the “work of the people” (liturgy).
But what is very evident is that a church ought to be the place where we “Rejoice
with those who rejoice; [and] mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

This kind of fellowship is far too
often found in AA groups and Mother’s Day races than among the people of God. I’m
glad I walked today but I sure wish Christians understood this dynamic better and
worked to see it happen in their communities of faith.