What I learned at the lemonade stand.

My children and I ran a lemonade stand yesterday.

So many lemons died. Mourn these poor lemons.

Anyway. I learned a lot during the process.

We set up shop in an empty parking lot adjacent to a church. I learned some things about some church folk that day.

A group of people who came over thought it appropriate to immediately kill the joy of this experience by criticizing my 7 year old son’s business model. They repeatedly mocked him for charging only a quarter per cup of fresh squeezed lemonade. As they stood by us and their other church friends came over they would laugh at my son and his choice to charge what he was charging.

The night before we set up his stand I had gone over the logistics with him. I told him all about covering costs and what his competitors may be charging. Etc. Etc.

I told him I thought 50 cents a cup was more than fair. He thought that was too much. He wanted to charge 10 cents. We settled on a quarter.

My children were engaged in every step of the process. They squeezed lemons. They made the sign. They helped set up and they operated the stand entirely after it was operational.

Here is my younger boy doing some excellent and enthusiastic advertising.

I told the older boy that I’d like him to offer free lemonade to police officers and soldiers. He smiled immediately at the idea. After the younger ones finished coloring the sign he added to it. He wanted to write “free for heroes” but I wasn’t sure that everyone would know what he meant.

His intentions to run the stand were never about money. He wanted a new experience. He wanted to make people happy.

As the crowd of critics mocked him I ended their battery of his innocence by saying, “We aren’t doing this to make money. We’re doing this to make people happy.” They quieted down. Thank God.

What surprised me was that these people had literally just walked out of church. Only a small clearing of grass separated our lemonade stand and their place of worship. Somehow in the short distance between those doors and my children’s lemonade stand they had lost their perspective on generosity and morality. Maybe that isn’t what they’re learning there. It certainly wasn’t their focus in the moments directly following their Sunday morning service.

They had gotten into his head though. After they left my son asked for a pen. He was thinking about changing the price on the sign. I gave him one, but I also told him I thought it was important to follow his heart. I told him he should stick to his decision and not let the opinions of others direct his choices.

I added, “What if a very thirsty person came to get a drink and they didn’t have much money?”

I have never been more proud of my son.

He said, “I would give it to them for free.”

I have to admit there was a strategy in the back of my mind that wasn’t entirely altruistic. My approach relied on people rewarding them for the good they were doing.

I knew that if good folks saw these three adorable children under charging for a quality product that their generosity would prevail.

Not one person left that lemonade stand without paying at least a dollar. Had these children charged 50 cents that is probably all they would have gotten during more than one transaction. Some of these people saw the innocence and philanthropic nature in these kids and paid 5 dollars a cup.

I wasn’t counting on that reaction. I wasn’t trying to be manipulative.

But, I know people.

We haven’t counted the money yet. It’s still in the piggy bank. The kids haven’t asked about how much they made even as the container of their earnings sits out in the open, in plain sight.

That isn’t why we did this.

By the end of hour one, outside in the hot hot Alabama heat, I was the one waving the sign by the highway while the kids sat in the shade. The big boy had set his hours of operation. He said he wanted to stay 2 hours. An hour and a half in he wanted to quit. I told him he needed to stick it out. He had set his hours and he wasn’t going to be clocking out until he had put in his time.

This wasn’t about money. It was about much more than that. Ethics, altruism, workmanship to name a few.

It’s a shame that a few religious folks sullied the joy in the occasion and tried to destroy what I had set out to do. They tried to realign my children’s value system with their own.

The really sad thing is, these types of folk will always tell my kids that they’re better than they are because they go to church and have a religion, one they don’t actually put into practice.

That mentality caused me some pain in the past. I hope my kids don’t suffer the same.

My kids did something great yesterday. I sincerely hope they realize that their actions mean much more than the words and religious status of a few misguided others.

They were honest in ethics.

They were generous and polite.

They were hard working and diligent.

They are far better people at 7, 5, and 3 years of age than the so called “Christians” who walked out of that church and over to us that day.

I’m incredibly proud of them.

I’m certain the Higher Power that cares for them is, too.

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