On the Fourth of July we celebrate the July 4th, 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence. It marked our separation from England following a period of struggle with the British monarchy of King George III.
We celebrated the 4th of July with a BBQ and a viewing of fireworks in our suburban community of El Dorado Hills (population 35,000). This was the first fireworks event for El Dorado Hills and it turned out to be spectacular. Emergency agencies estimated attendance to be 20,000!
After a short walk from where we parked, we settled into the perfect viewing spot on a hill overlooking the fireworks staging area. The entourage from our BBQ included my brother Mark and his extended family—Scott and Sara with their kids, Drew and Bean. Four-year-old Drew has autism, a developmental disability that strikes 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. Drew had no trouble cozying up to a grandmotherly woman sitting next to him on the hill. A complete stranger.
“Hi,” Drew said wiggling onto her padded seat on the ground.
"Well... Hi there," she politely replied.
Drew chattered on about the fireworks and very quickly a bond was made. She produced Drew's favorite "toy," an iPhone, and trustingly handed it to him. I watched in amazement as this sweet stranger interacted with Drew.
"I don't have very many games," she said while Drew deftly searched her apps.
When the lights shut off, Drew got excited. "Ready?" he shouted. "Are you ready?"
As the fireworks filled the air in front of us, the woman asked, "Which one is your favorite?"
Drew waited and watched. Several splashes of color later he shouted, "That's my favorite! ... and that's my favorite!"
At one point in the precious display of independence, I heard the woman say in response to Drew, "I don't have any children so I don't have any grandchildren."
It touched my heart to know how special this interchange must have been. How a fearless, autistic child feels no boundaries about approaching a perfect stranger to make a friend. That evening as Drew jumped up and down yelling "Bye" to his new friend, I couldn't help think the gentlewoman left richer because of a child's moment of independence.