The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. For me, Independence Day means baseball, summer, food and fireworks. All my favorite things. And it doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, I always get a little choked up when I hear Lee Greenwood’s, “God Bless the U.S.A”. This year, as I listened to Mr. Greenwood’s voice over the sound system from my bleacher seat, I reflected upon the lyrics:
If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I'd worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.
I'd thank my lucky stars,
to be livin’ here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can't take that away.
And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
Wow. What a powerful message to ponder. What really struck me about the song is how it conveys that little else matters if we’re not free. If we’re unhappy with our job, we’re free to leave and pursue another vocation. If, like Mr. Greenwood says, “Tomorrow all the things were gone, I’d worked for all my life”, at least I could say I was free. But what if you couldn’t say that?
Last year, my life was profoundly changed after attending a meeting on social justice. I listened to a man speak about all the injustices that are taking place in our country and how we are called by the Lord to address them. As Christians, we are going to be held accountable for what we did with the information we had. I learned about the human trafficking that was occurring in this very city and my heart was broken.
And, like so many of us whose eyes are opened to this issue, I felt compelled to do something about it. But what could I do? I struggled to find appropriate times to share the information with which I felt so burdened. I was the girl at the party who made everyone feel guilty that they didn’t already know that human trafficking wasn’t “just something that happens in Cambodia” or one of those “other” countries. I spouted off facts and postulated about the merits of buying fair trade products. I was, in short, a “Debbie downer”. I was that girl you avoided at cocktail parties. I was challenged to find a way to raise awareness that would be uplifting, informative and empowering.
Then one day I thought about how much Chicagoans love their 5K races. Bingo.
We love running for causes! We do. There’s just something so empowering and liberating about the act of running! And what better cause to run for than freedom?
I wanted to create an event where Chicagoans could come together, become informed and leave equipped with tangible ways to fight trafficking. I wanted to create an event that grows and grows each year until it’s clear to traffickers that Chicago demands a city that is traffick free.
I have learned not to take my own freedom for granted. I know how quickly it can be snatched away and how easily it can be lost. Slavery is not dead in America. And being an American does not necessarily mean you’re free. But we can fight! Run with us and show that Chicago demands a city free of human trafficking!
Courtney Newton, Race Director and Special Events Director
Traffick Free 5K Freedom Run
Register online: www.traffickfree.org/5k
For questions, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org