Many Americans will not be home to celebrate their July 4th holiday. Some are traveling or working abroad. Others reside in different countries. Many are in the armed forces, and voluntarily spend their holiday fighting and dying for the country they believe in.
On July the 4th, their friends and families back home in the USA gather together. A grill is fired up. The smell of charcoal filters throughout their old neighborhoods. Their families gather to laugh; grandfathers toss baseballs to grandsons, fathers tend to burning meat, and later, everyone stands under a dark sky to admire the fireworks that explode over their heads. At the end of the day, they walk hand-in-hand on their way home after a day of love and celebration. Those who aren’t home feel lonely. They don’t have a day off from work. It’s business as usual where they are. There’s no one to wish them a happy July 4th.
I know how they feel. On July the 1st─Canada Day, the Canadian equivalent of July the 4th─I walked through our Lexington Avenue office in Manhattan. I wished everyone I passed a happy Canada Day. Most people had heard of it, but they had no idea how important a day it is for their neighboring country. They didn’t know Canada celebrated just as the USA does for Independence Day.
I felt lonely. I was working on a holiday I hold dear. I had no one to celebrate with. Back in my home country, the party was on. They celebrated. I worked.
The work day came to a close. I dropped beneath the concrete jungle and followed the crowds to the “E” train of the New York Subway system. Beneath the streets, the platforms were hot and crowded. An “E” train came. It was packed. I waited for the next one. I pulled my handkerchief from my pocket and wiped the sweat from my forehead and neck. Another “E” came five minutes later. It was less crowded. I hopped on.
Fifteen minutes later, I reached my transfer point to the “A” train at 42nd street. The 42nd street subway station is one of the largest in Manhattan. It spans for several blocks beneath Times Square. It’s a connecting point for five different subway lines. Above ground is the Metropolitan Authority bus station, a huge complex for the major bus lines into and out of Manhattan. There are people everywhere. They transfer from train-to-train, bus-to-train, and vice versa.
I exited my train, walked up the stairs, down a hall lined with shops, and down another set of stairs to the “A” train. I waited in the heat. People jammed all around me. I felt sorry for myself─alone on a New York subway station. I wanted to celebrate my country.
A splash of red caught my eye. I turned to my right. Twenty feet down, a young woman stood by herself, waiting for the same train. She wore a jersey with a maple leaf on the front. I walked up to her. She had earphones plugged in her ear. I leaned close, “Happy Canada Day!” I said loud enough to be heard over whatever music she listened to. I said three words and started to walk away.
“Hey!” I heard behind me. I turned. She pulled her earphones out. “Are you Canadian too?”
“I sure am!” I smiled.
“No way! Are you kidding me? So am I!”
Laura and I stood, chatted about our memories of Canada, and waited for our train. When it came, it was packed. “You know what?” I asked. “When the train is that packed, there is usually one close behind that’s empty. I’m going to wait.”
“You’re right!” She said. “I’ll wait too.” We wanted the moment to last─a few minutes of Canada on our day.
The next “A” train arrived. It was practically empty. We stepped in, sat beside each other, and chatted for the next 133 blocks. Laura was a beautiful young girl from Toronto. She was in New York to study dance, music, and singing. Her energy and love for her country was contagious. The heaviness in my heart vanished. I had a moment of Canada beneath the streets of New York City.
At 175th street, I had to get off the train. I shook her hand. “Laura, thank you. I’ll never see you again, but I want to thank you for making my Canada Day special.”
I stepped off and watched the subway pull away. As it disappeared into the tunnel, I thought to myself, “There goes my personal ‘Miracle on 42nd Street.”