This morning Judy and I wake up to the most beautiful of spring days–deep blue sky, no clouds, and mild temperatures (leaning slightly toward the cool). The morning light makes every detail in nature sparkle with freshness. Is this Washington? Karabi and Malay set out a tasty breakfast for us–one that will fuel me forth.
By 7:45 I’m out the front door saying goodbyes again to a host family that has gone out of its way to welcome us. I now firmly believe that great students of the past become even greater adults in the present. I march south toward The National Cathedral where a former Shipley student, now adult, Elizabeth Maddock Eastwick, welcomes me to this amazing religious structure on the highest point in Washington. We visit the Bishop’s Garden and then head inside for a quick tour before opening hours. I feel quite special. Elizabeth holds in her snuggly her youngest child of two, Brooks. What a cutie!
Totally aware that Sidwell Friends is not that far away, we chat casually as we walk together. We get to observe a maypole dance in the church’s sanctuary by students from the Beauvoir Elementary School. This will be part of a graduation ceremony within a few days.
A forced march north on Wisconsin Avenue brings me to Sidwell Friends School, the fourth and last school on my spring tour. The counseling team, Dr. Parker and Ms. Grebsky, take time out of their schedule to talk about mental illness issues at the school and how the school’s support systems work. Based on our conversation, I can see that Sidwell tries hard to respond effectively to student mental issues. In the spirit of my walk, we explore other possible best practices to widen the web of support.
By 11:00 I’m descending Wisconsin (all downhill) toward Georgetown to cross the Potomac River on the Key Bridge into VA. I no sooner enter DC this morning than already I’m exiting the Capital for VA for my 2:00 appointment at NAMI’s (National Alliance for Mental Illness) headquarters in Arlington. I’m already getting a feeling that today’s mile tally with be significant. No surprise there. Every stage of this year’s pilgrimage has overshot my original estimates.
NAMI’s offices cover three different floors, each section focusing on a different aspect of the organization’s overall mission. I meet with Darcy Gruttadaro in policy. Both of us affirm the incredible importance of spreading awareness.
Now comes the hard part–the trek back up Wisconsin Avenue to tonight’s host family, Tom Farquhar and Mary Grady. I meet Andre, a young man on the sidewalk trying to solicit monthly contributions to Planned Parenthood. I politely decline, but he asks good questions about my project. I’m grateful to tell him Nathaniel’s story.
Now it’s all back uphill from Georgetown to Porter Street. No wonder this morning I made such good time. My hosts, Tom and Mary, welcome me in to their lovely home. They are such dear friends. Their son, Drew, and our Nathaniel spent hours playing together back at Westtown years ago. Strong bonds of friendship can endure geographical separation.
To crown off a perfect spring day in DC, I meet Mike Spigler, former Programs Director at IOCDF, for a Thai dinner on Connecticut Avenue, a half mile away from Porter Street where I’m spending the night. We eat good food; catch up on family news, and share stories of our most recent activities–mine walking the Camino de Nathaniel and his doing a brand new job in a non-profit organization that focuses on food allergies. Lucky them to inherit a dedicated, able organizer.
It’s late and time to close shop. Tomorrow’s activities will be equally demanding. Better get rest now!