Driving home from yoga class, I saw four children between the ages of 5 and 10 near the side of the road, holding signs and jumping around like lunatics. As soon as they saw a car approach, their energy intensified even more: They pointed to a nearby card table sporting a pitcher of juice and some disposable cups, and began screaming, “Pull over! Pull over! Pull over! Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!!” in very whiny, incredibly annoying voices.
Ugh. This is precisely why I don’t stop at children’s lemonade stands – I don’t want to reward kids for obnoxious behavior. I only see these types of operations a few times a year, so I’m not perpetually bothered by them (which is nice); but admittedly, every time I drive by one without stopping, I kind of feel like a bitch. I know it would mean a lot to the kids to have a stranger pull over and give their modest start-up venture a little business, and it would only cost me a few minutes and a few coins (both of which I can afford); and yet, for years I have chosen to turn my head, ignore the young pleading faces begging for attention, push down my own feelings of guilt for not opening my heart to the situation before me, and keep my foot solidly on the gas pedal, hoping that I can avoid such encounters in the future. They feel like no-win situations for me.
So why put “Buy a glass of lemonade from a kid’s stand” on my 101 list at all? Well, I figured that if I participated in this activity just once, I would either learn: 1) the satisfaction that I received from helping kids feel good would outweigh my concern/sentiment that I was supporting their undesirable behaviors, or 2) exactly the opposite (i.e., acknowledging kids in this state only encourages them to be manic and only makes me feel annoyed) – in which case, I could let go of any guilt that might surface when I inevitably pass by future stands, and drive on with a clear conscience and light heart.
As I drew closer to today’s roadside enterprise, I saw that the children’s signs were different from ones usually taped to a homemade stand. While most kids’ signs read something like, “Lemonade 25¢”, these signs said, “Please donate to help…” – but I had driven by the kids before I could process the full context of their signs. However, just before I completely passed the center of the activity, I saw a dad standing next to one of the kids. This both intrigued and impressed me (usually lemonade stands in the neighborhood are without any adult supervision) – so I decided that this would be the lemonade stand that would make my 101 list.
I turned onto the next available side street and circled back to the kids’ stand. As I slowed my car, one of the girls screamed, “Someone’s stopping!!”, and two boys who had been sitting on the grass sprung to their feet. Crossing the street to approach the table, a second girl started loudly explaining to me, “Wearesellinglemonadetoraisemoneyforkidswithcancerwannahavesome??!!”, then darted back to the road to try and snag more prospects before I could give an answer. Unphased, I continued walking towards the stand, where the dad patiently stood nearby and smiled kindly at me. He greeted me with a ‘good morning’, then said, “Thanks for stopping. We’re collecting money for a nonprofit that helps pay medical bills for families who have children with cancer.” He nodded toward a 9-year-old girl who was standing near the side of the road, holding a sign. “My daughter is participating in a triathlon next month, and she’s working to raise money to meet her fundraising goal before she completes the event. If you’d like to donate any money, feel free to put it in the piggy bank,” he ended, pointing to a white porcelain pig sitting in the middle of the table.
A 9-year-old completing a triathlon to raise money for kids with cancer? I was *incredibly* impressed. I asked the dad, “Wow, a triathlon? That’s really something! How far will she go?”
He nonchalantly replied, “Oh, she’ll swim 100 yards in a lake, then bike for 3 miles, then run for half a mile. She did it last year, and loved it.” The dad then turned his attention to a little boy who was standing by my side, and said encouragingly, “Ask the lady what she would like.”
As I noticed the 5-year-old boy for the first time, he found his voice and quietly asked, “Which one do you want?”, holding a small chocolate chip cookie in one hand, and a small chocolate cookie in the other.
I looked him in the eye, and responded, “Hmm, I don’t know. Which one do you think is good?” Delighted that an adult was interested in his opinion, his eyes lit up as he quietly answered, “This one,” holding the chocolate cookie slightly ahead of the chocolate chip one. “Perfect,” I replied, “then that’s the one I’ll have. Thank you!” As I took the tiny cookie from his little hand, the boy smiled – then scampered off to the road, eager to serve another prospective customer.
I grinned, then dug into my purse to find some money. As I was working to take some bills from my wallet, a trying-to-be-helpful-but-mostly-bossy 8-year-old girl thrust a small white styrofoam cup at me, half-filled with pink liquid, and said, “Don’t forget your lemonade!!” I smiled at her, and said, “Ah, yes – thank you!” I accepted the cup, stuffed some money into the piggy bank, secured my wallet back into my purse, and prepared to walk back to my car. Before I left, I asked the dad if I could take a few pictures of the stand, and he said sure, of course. After I snapped a few images, I pulled my car key from my pocket and turned to walk away. The dad caught my eye and discreetly said, “Hey – thanks for stopping.” I gave him a grin and a knowing nod, and made my way back to my vehicle.
At home, I ate the tiny cookie with my lunch. It was almost like a brownie: super soft on the inside (almost under-baked, but not quite), yet still had a bit of a crispy crust on the outside. It was really quite tasty – and it paired perfectly with the slightly-tart/slightly-sweet pink lemonade I sipped from the white styrofoam cup. It wasn’t the fanciest dessert I have ever consumed – but it was one that made me feel incredibly satisfied and content from a place deep inside, a place that extended well beyond my stomach.
From this experience, I learned that no matter how late I am to an appointment or no matter how much spare change I might have on hand, I should always stop at an available lemonade stand and support a child’s endeavors. Always make the effort. Always support others. I’ll never know what I’m missing if I don’t – but it might be something big. Something amazing. Something that connects me to the beauty of being truly alive.
P.S. Some pictures from my lemonade stand experience: