Indy 500

A Monday Meditation for August 24, 2020

St. Peter’s

So, yesterday was the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. I don’t usually care that much about this local (international?) tradition. Except that I do. Let me explain.


I have never been to the Motor Speedway, except to walk my dog around the track as a fundraiser for the Humane Society. I’ve never seen a race there or even been to the museum. I’m told I’m missing out. Truthfully, since the race is almost always on a Sunday, I could never justify taking a Sunday of vacation time to watch it in person. I don’t like the heat. I’d prefer not to be at loud events. I don’t really like being in crowds of rowdy people. The race just isn’t/wasn’t my thing.


But then, my college roommate married a guy that I introduced her to. He’s a race engineer. I didn’t even know those existed until Mike came along. I mean, they are just cars that go fast, right? Not so much, I’ve learned.


I’ve followed Mike from team to team (didn’t really know that there were teams prior to knowing him either, but whatever…) And I now care a little bit about the race. Not too much – just a little bit.


Yesterday, we recorded the start of the race. It was nap time at our house, and we weren’t going to mess that up. We watched for awhile (through the tire that caught on fire) and then enjoyed some time outside. When we came back in, there were 6 laps to go. Probably worth watching again, we thought, so we turned it on again.


And it turns out that Takuma Sato was in the lead. What?!? That was Mike’s guy.  Mike’s car. The car that Mike worked on. Suddenly, we cared. We knew how much he had worked for this. We knew how much the pandemic had affected his team and him. We knew (courtesy of a few texts with his wife/my friend) that his son was in tears due to the excitement. We took a family selfie in front of the TV because… Sato won the race!


Our kid started to ask questions. Why the milk, Mommy? Where’s Mike? Why are they still going around? How did the car get up there? What happened to the red car [the one that crashed]. How did the doctors get there? Can they save the tires? The list was endless.


And you might be wondering what this has to do with faith at this point… and that would be reasonable. But here’s the thing. The whole time I was watching the race, and most of the time that I was outside ignoring it, I was thinking about Mike and his family. I prayed that this day would be a fulfilling one for them – not that “their car” would win the race, but that they’d enjoy this bizarre pandemic Race Day.


I also prayed for family and friends of Barb Hawkins, St. Peter’s member who died in March. We had hoped to have a memorial service for her on Race Weekend this year… and the pandemic prevented it. When I went to her house after she had died, a friend from church showed me the beef brisket that Barb had already purchased for the race this year. She loved the race in a way that I never understood, but I felt connected to her spirit yesterday, and that felt good – sad, but good.



And the whole day – whether I was watching the TV or outside, I felt like I was in the family room at my neighbor’s house across the street from my childhood home in Wisconsin. That’s where I watched a number of races as a child. I didn’t care about the race, but they did, and it was fun to be around them while they cared about something I didn’t understand.


I sent my former neighbors a text saying just about that. The reply came back, “Wow – I forgot about it. We’re outside. But in other, sadder, news, my father-in-law died yesterday.” Woah. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t reached out to ask about this silly race. And now I know. And I know that my childhood friend is grieving the death of his father-in-law, and I care.


I guess my point is this: the disconnection that we feel from one another is real. This pandemic is difficult, and it’s not going away as quickly as I had hoped. Back when it started, none of us could have imagined that the Indy 500 would run without fans, but here we are. We couldn’t imagine that we’d “still” be worshiping online, but here we are. And I couldn’t imagine that it would take a pandemic and the Indy 500 to reinforce a spiritual value that I hold: that being connected matters. Caring about something simply because someone you love cares about it DOES make a difference. I don’t have to love the Indy 500, but caring about it because my friend and her family love it changes me a little bit… for the better, I think.


This morning I was hoping to see a photo or two of Mike with his team, and I did – all smiles. But I also woke up to the news of another police-involved shooting, this one in my home state of Wisconsin. Suddenly, my joy at the connection to the Indy 500 melted away. It was quickly eclipsed by my sadness, anger, dismay, bewilderment at yet another shooting. I don’t have all the details, and I don’t know if I/we ever will, but I care, and I guess that’s why I’m ending my meditation with this: we can choose to start caring for others, or we can just keep going around in circles.


At one point, I thought that was all that the Indy 500 was: cars going around in circles. And at some level, that’s true; it really is a race in which cars go around in circles. But on a deeper level, this year, the Indy 500 mattered to me, and that was because it was connected to people whom I love. Now, if only we could love others as much as we love our Indy 500… like truly love others enough to watch them when they are in trouble, or when they crash, or when they outperform us. But wait! – maybe we can do that. Maybe we can love others in new ways. It starts with loving each other for/despite the smallest of things (the order of yesterday’s lineup), the things we don’t really understand (that tire fire), the things that make us cringe a little bit (that red car crash). I wonder what we’ll learn if we start to watch each other like we watch our favorite (or not so favorite) sporting events. What will we see if we truly pay attention to others?



I learned that the Indy 500 brings back sweet childhood memories, connects me to friends I’ve had for decades, and ties me to those who have died in recent months. All from a silly car race, and yet… And yet, I am different this Monday morning as a result. Takuma Sato is different today as well. So is Jacob Blake. Now it’s time to get to work on living our faith and not just watching it pass us from behind, or on an inside curve, or while in the pits, or… whatever. You know what I mean. Just go live your faith.


Together While Apart,
Lori Bievenour