by Lyle Foster
Posted June 25, 2014
The morning sun made the lake shimmer almost like a mirage, and I again marveled at the beauty of this spectacular setting. I was snapped back to the task at hand though by the announcement that the race would be starting just a few minutes late as the police department was making sure the course was secure.
(Photo: News-Leader file photo)
And for a moment it occurred to me that the nature of the event I was in might be an attractive or ironic location for some tragic act. I quickly dismissed the thought, but it reminded me that the reality of the "new America" was that the security of our simplest and most precious moments was interrupted by the question of our safety.
Soon we started and a beautiful morning began on the lakefront of Chicago for the 15th Race Against Hate in memory of Ricky Byrdsong. Sure, it's special because it honors my buddy and raises funds to help fight racism, but this year I was struck by some beautiful images I would like to share.
It was Father's Day and I was so grateful to experience it with my family, which made it special, but nearly 6,000 runners, walkers and spectators added to it. I saw a lot of dads, and it made so much sense because Ricky was a great dad and lived to teach and coach kids of all ages.
For all those days that the promise of the Martin Luther King Jr. "Dream" seems to be in reverse, this was a day that filled me with hope. I was encouraged by witnessing the incredible number of children, babies in strollers and seniors on walking sticks who ran and walked to stand against hate. Truth be told, I saw folks from every imaginable background and age group participating.
The thought kept occurring to me that a lot of people want to make our communities better, and what an inspiration for the parents to share with their children what the race stood for.
As I walked and did the old man's shuffle, I slowly smiled noticing the teenagers and the cheerleaders who shouted encouragement along the way and the throngs of college students who sprinted along for the cause and to enjoy a perfect end of spring day.
And I realized that a lot of people do believe in the opportunity for all and the dignity of every human. It felt like a force running for good and change as I watched the various events of the morning. Our T-shirts listed many corporations that supported the event and helped to fund needed programs and services to fight racism.
I can't say that it is a model community because every place has its share of challenges, but there was a definite camaraderie and commitment to make the city better. My thoughts slowly turned to the Ozarks, and I wondered if we need our local version of a Race Against Hate. The opportunity to sensitize and educate is too important to miss another chance to share that. I've mentioned it to a few movers and shakers in town, and maybe that will be in the future. We can use some help to speak words of acceptance and inclusion in our neighborhoods and villages.
I don't know how you feel but I would sure like to walk and shuffle one sunny morning to help make our area better and stronger today and tomorrow.
[This article first appeared in the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader on June 19, 2014 It is reprinted here with permission. Lyle Foster is part of the Commercial Street Merchants Association and active in several local organizations in Springfield.]