4th of July


Every year on July 4th Mr. and Mrs. Green got up early. They drove to  Greenbelt MD and hopped on the Metro. They arrived before the crowds at the Washington Monument. They gazed at their reflection in the reflecting pool. They walked hand in hand up the mall and around to the Lincoln Memorial. They counted the steps, just to make sure they remembered the exact number. They ate pulled pork sandwiches from a food truck for lunch and stopped into the Natural History Museum to cool off and look at exhibits. The Green’s loved Washington DC! They loved the crowds, they loved the sites, and they loved the feel of it.

Mrs. Green carried a tote back and Mr. Green a backpack. As they walked down the street and saw the sights they stopped along the way and met  the people sitting on the street. They were called homeless by everyone else. Mrs. Green preferred to call them by name. She introduced herself, looking them in the eye and offering her hand in a friendly and respectful gesture. If invited, she sat next to them and listened. Oh the stories she heard that day! Stories of trouble and woe, but also stories of poets, and songwriters, stories that seemed all mixed up and tangled, and stories that made more sense than things most people say.

Mrs. Green would not have traded this time for anything in the entire world. She learned more from the people she met on the 4th of July than she could have in a thousand classes in college, Sundays at church, or every book in the library. As she said goodbye to each of them by name she thanked them and asked if she could return the favor with a gift. Out of the tote bag and backpack she pulled a large Ziploc bag. There was always a bit of money, a bit of food, and an encouraging note. As for the extras Mrs. Green never knew what she would put in each bag for the day. Sometimes it was a full change of clothes, sometimes a kazoo or a harmonica, sometimes umbrellas and rain ponchos. Once she put together a bag of makeup and a wig, and a yo-yo. Mr. Green often asked Mrs. Green how she chose the things to pack for the day, and how on earth she knew who to give them to. She always had the same reply,

“God knows the number of hairs on our heads. He can certainly figure out what might bless someone’s life if you are willing to ask. It is not my business to know all the answers; it is just my job to ask the questions.”

Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015

Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


2 thoughts on “4th of July

  1. Terri, my daughter and I visited Washington in 2012. I was walking with you every step of the way in the story – the homeless people in the parks, the queuing for food a vivid memory alongside some of the most recognisable monuments in the world. This would make a delightful picture storybook, shedding some much needed light and encouraging positive actions for a difficult, but solvable situation. Your humanity and light, humorous touch and warmth is delightful and appealing.


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