Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON D.C.—The Washington Monument stands in the far-off distance. There are important people buzzing around town, wearing designer-brand facemasks, texting on phones, in a perpetual hurry.

It’s morning in D.C. A little chilly. And this feels like the most important place on planet Earth. You can feel anxiety hanging in the air. It’s got me feeling jumpy.

I’ve been living on a trail for many days. This is a shock to the system.

Besides, I’m not used to a high-powered atmosphere. I am a small-town guy. In my hometown, for example, if you visit our supermarket, it will take hours to finish your shopping because everyone will ask about your mama.

But here, things feel urgent. Young people are ambitious, career oriented, fast paced, and severely constipated. Even my breakfast-joint waitress has an edge to her voice.

“I’m not really a waitress,” she says, topping off my coffee. “I’m a civics education major with a minor in criminal psychology.”

After she tells me this, I’m too embarrassed to ask her for the ketchup. It would be too far beneath her dignity. So I choke down my home fries dry.

To get a sense of how this town feels, think about how the last year has gone.

Think of all the heated arguments on the world stage. The disagreements, the anger, the bitterness, the unhappiness, the joyless faces of ordinary folks standing in line for toilet paper. The irate TV newspersons who look like they’re about to suffer hemorrhagic strokes on the air.

Welcome to D.C.

After breakfast, I’m riding the outskirts of this metropolis, into the suburbs. On my drive I see attractive neighborhoods filled with two-story homes and SUVs in driveways. In one yard, I notice the kids selling lemonade.

I pull over. If for no other reason than because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a lemonade stand.

In a few seconds I am on the sidewalk meeting a boy and a girl who wear surgical masks. Their mother is nearby, in a lawn chair, keeping an eye out.

The kids greet me with happy voices.

And immediately, these two have just become my most favorite people in the world. I’ll tell you why:

Remember Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip? Remember Lucy’s Psychiatric Help booth? Their lemonade stand looks just like that. Only instead of a sign reading: “The doctor is in.” It reads: “Lemonade $2.”

Two dollars is highway robbery of course. You can buy a two-pound sack of lemons for $3.28. But these kids aren’t selling homemade lemonade. This is a worldwide pandemic. They’re selling store bought lemonade in sealed plastic bottles.

I ask my new friends how business has been. They don’t seem too excited. They tell me they’ve been giving away lots of lemonade today.

“Giving it away?” I say.

“Yeah. Nobody ever has any cash.”

“And we can’t take cards,” adds the other. “Not unless we use my mom’s cellphone card-reader, and she won’t let us.”

The kid nudges a bottle toward me. “So you can just have a bottle free.”

I hardly believe what I’m hearing. The last thing I expected in this hyper-individualistic, dog-eat-dog, power hungry world of Washington D.C. was to see little kids giving away lemonade.

I ask these two self-starters how much money they’ve earned with this unique business plan.

They glance at their almost empty Maxwell House canister.

The boy says, “Three dollars and…” He’s still counting. “That’s it. Three dollars.”

“And how many lemonades have you given away?”

They laugh. “Pretty much every bottle.”

So I end up buying one of their last bottles because, let it be known, I support small businesses. Then I tuck a five-dollar bill into their jar. Not because I’m a swell guy, but because this is all I have in my wallet.

The two children react as though I’ve given them the keys to a new Porsche Boxster.

“Thanks!” they say.

After I leave, I am back to exploring again. Only this time I’m sipping lemonade. And it’s shocking how the air in D.C. has changed.

I drive through a sprawling downtown, and this doesn’t feel like the same place it was a few hours ago. It’s sunnier. Maybe it’s the sugar in my blood. Or maybe it’s my two new friends. Either way, I’m feeling better.

I’m driving side streets, gawking at parts of town that date back to a time when George Washington still had acne. And I’m truly enjoying myself in this American Rome.

The historic storefronts are perfect. The architecture is astounding. The avenues are decorated to the nines, juiced with fresh flowers, shrubs, ornate lamp posts, patriotic bunting, and purple mid-morning shadows.

I see the Lincoln Memorial, on the west end of the National Mall. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in West Potomac Park, pretty enough to steal your breath. And Nationals Ballpark, standing proud in the Navy Yard along the Anacostia River.

The sun is shining. Aromas of garlic and stale beer drift from eateries lining the commercial districts. And even the local cab drivers seem happy, cheerfully driving 138 miles per hour on residential sidewalks.

Everything here is top notch. And I can’t figure out how my gloomy attitude changed so quickly. How did this place go from a depressing town to downright beautiful?

Well, I’m not a smart man. But in this sour age of unrest and turmoil; of intense disagreement, unrelenting anger, and hatred; of diseases, deadly viruses, riots, deaths, and pop country; perhaps there is a balm for the heart of humankind.

Maybe what we need is more lemonade.


  1. Ann - September 19, 2020 9:18 am

    When you have lemons……..and you did🥰🥰

  2. C - September 19, 2020 12:06 pm

    Funny what gets to you, isn’t it?! It is so often reminders of a softer, gentler day when folks, old and young, reached out with something, most likely a piece of their heart. C

  3. Katherine I Wickliffe - September 19, 2020 12:14 pm

    I love this article! Sending this to my sister in Northern VA now!

  4. Jean - September 19, 2020 12:24 pm

    You are a swell guy….most would have taken their lemonade without a thought about them. Good for you!

  5. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - September 19, 2020 12:56 pm

    I drink a lot of lemonade these days.

  6. Stephen Disney - September 19, 2020 1:02 pm

    Needed to read your words this morning👍

  7. Tammy - September 19, 2020 1:24 pm

    Love this. Kindness and simple gratitude are contagious. What is most surprising is how much we infect ourselves. When WE think we are the ones giving it away, it is growing inside of us. Certainly a contagion-worthy pandemic to cultivate.

  8. Jimpa - September 19, 2020 1:51 pm

    Now I want some lemonade!

  9. Heidi - September 19, 2020 2:25 pm

    Those kids should set up right outside of the Congressional Building.

  10. Jane Elder - September 19, 2020 2:45 pm

    And don’t we all..

  11. Cynthia Russell - September 19, 2020 3:17 pm

    Thank You Sean for your kind heart.. In our small town, I run into Lemonade stands or kids raising money selling : candy bars – & everything else .. I’ve made
    u-turns to go back…. do I take the lemonade- never because I don’t drink it .. I don’t take the candy bar because I don’t need it.. but I do give them a large bill & tell them “I SUPPORT YOUR BUSINESS, I Support that You are choosing to Make a Way for you to make money by working for it! I am proud of You & hope to support your business again! Then I shake their little hands & thank them in A Sincere Sweet Southern Manner …..
    I do hope to meet you one day… missed a chance when your talk at the Fairhope Ala. bookstore got cancelled..

  12. Susan - September 19, 2020 3:23 pm

    Thank you for this. I grew up in Catonsville, MD. Spent much time in DC ( one can drink beer in the district at 18, lol). It is truly a beautiful city that gives every visitor a real sense of the magnificent history that made America. No one leaves there untouched.

  13. Cynthia Russell - September 19, 2020 3:33 pm

    Susan – come on down to Slidell Louisiana – we have drive thru daiquiri shops.. drive up – order, take it & leave.. they can’t put the straw in the drink – that’s against the law..

  14. Linda Moon - September 19, 2020 4:34 pm

    Perpetually important people….I’ve known and even loved a few of them in D.C. I won’t ever return to Washington, but I’d like to see some of my kin from the outskirts again. You ARE a smart man, “Forrest”. You bottled some sweet lemonade for us today. Thank you for your kind heart, Sean!

  15. Jo - September 19, 2020 4:53 pm

    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s what you did, Sean.

  16. Gary - September 19, 2020 6:05 pm

    A bureaucrat would demand to see their occupational license and health report😱😳…it would go downhill from there!

  17. Margaret Stueart - September 19, 2020 6:36 pm

    Yes, you are so right!

  18. Christina - September 19, 2020 6:36 pm

    This is lemonade for the soul!

  19. Rich Karneboge - September 20, 2020 1:32 am

    You’re the lemonade in my day! Maybe if your missives were required reading for everyone (starting with the politicians), we just might be able to turn 2020 around! Thanks for the good feels.

  20. Pat McGilberry - September 20, 2020 1:53 am

    Beautiful! Yep thats what it was.

  21. Del - September 20, 2020 5:48 am

    Your writings give me joy, thank you. 😊😊

  22. Jon Dragonfly - September 20, 2020 3:14 pm

    “Maybe what we need is more lemonade.”
    No, what we need is more kids like that.
    God bless ’em.

  23. Jennifer Lund - September 23, 2020 11:09 pm

    Kindness matters

  24. Brian Gorski. - October 21, 2020 10:45 pm

    I love your stories.
    If I was there with you we could have walked in to the White House and sit everyone down and give them a good ass chewing and let them know that the adults “running” this country need to start working together and right the ship.
    Sean, we need a regular guy like you in Washington.

  25. Mary Anne Tomlinson - October 25, 2020 5:16 am

    Great story Sean. We always patronize lemonade stands in our neighborhood (Pensacola). And we give the kids way mire than the posted price along with a smile and words of encouragement.


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