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Independence Is Nice, But Being With Friends Is Better

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | July 4, 2020

I have moved into a small apartment in an old building in a “rough” part of town. As far as I can tell, my neighbors are very diverse, mostly immigrants, and all lovely.

The Fourth of July is coming up, and since money is tight, I’m not able to make it home for the holidays. I will be working a shift at the gas station I work at the night before, anyway, so I would be too tired to travel on the day.

I get home one day and see my neighbor’s door open; they’re an Iranian family. The mother is doing laundry and has the door and windows open to make a breeze on this hot and humid day. We get talking, and she asks me what I know about the Fourth of July, as she has heard it in conversation recently. I explain about Independence Day and what American families usually do — BBQ, fireworks, etc. She seems satisfied with the answer and goes back to doing laundry.

The next day another neighbor, this time a Chinese man, knocks on my door. He asks my help in translating a government form he has to complete, and he doesn’t understand certain words. We have spoken before so it didn’t come out of the blue, and I am happy to help. Funnily enough, afterward, he also asks about the Fourth of July and what it means. Again, I am happy to explain.

The day before the Fourth of July, I am heading out to my long night shift and bump into another neighbor coming into the building, a Ugandan woman. She doesn’t ask me about the Fourth of July, but asks if I am working all night, as I sometimes do. She is shocked, asking why I am not celebrating one of my holidays with my family, and I have to explain I have moved far away and money is tight. 

I go to my shift, which is 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, and it goes by without incident, just lots of people on the road traveling to see family and last-minute purchases of party supplies. I finish, head home, and get some sleep.

I wake up around midday on the Fourth of July and see a piece of paper at the bottom of my front door. Someone slid it under while I was sleeping.

It reads:

“Hi, [My Name]! We felt sorry that you couldn’t celebrate with your family today, so we’ve made some food for you. Come across whenever you’re hungry.”

It was sent by the Iranian mother across the hall. Very surprised, and more than a little touched, I freshen up and go over. I discover that their whole apartment has been turned into an international potluck! 

Their apartment is the only one with a terrace, and there I find most of my neighbors! Some are wearing tacky Fourth of July plastic glasses, some are drinking from red party cups, but all are having a good time. Without realizing, I had assisted or befriended most of my neighbors over the previous months, and I had been one of the few US citizens that had treated them nicely and with respect, so they wanted to say thank you.

That afternoon, I celebrate an All-American holiday with Iranians, Chinese, Ugandans, Filipinos, Uruguayans, and Vietnamese, who all contributed their cultural food for the occasion. It is the best Independence Day I have ever had! I miss living in that crappy old apartment!


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