Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Lemonade Stand Kids


What could be a more quintessential sign of suburban summer than a lemonade stand? Even if we drive by in a hurry, we smile at the sight of one. We remember carefree days of our own childhoods. If we do stop we usually put more money in the till than they are asking, especially if it’s for a charitable cause.

I, too, have gotten home from a drive and posted the location of a lemonade stand on social media to try to drum up more business for them. It’s almost as though there’s something precious about this occurrence. I feel an inner responsibility to help preserve it. 

So many things that children used to be able to do independently are now gone. 

The lemonade stand is a reminder of all those other things we used to do on our own, without parental supervision and hovering. If it disappears then all of that golden magic of our childhoods is gone forever. Once we were that eager child hoping to make a sale for the sheer fun of it. Now we want to enter into that joy as the smiling adult, full of appreciation and enthusiasm for a cold drink on a hot day, and for the children themselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we love our lemonade stands in Columbia/HoCo and what a stark contrast there is in attitudes towards the young entrepreneurs in Baltimore City who turn up every day to wash windshields*. In fact, I’ve seen some people get outright angry at even the use of the term “young entrepreneurs.” Their brains will allow only one definition for the squeegee kid: criminal. 

I’ve read of communities rising up to support local kids whose lemonade stands ran afoul of permitting laws. It’s interesting to note that in these cases the police are called “over-zealous”. The children are not called “criminals”, even though they were (albeit unknowingly) breaking the law.

“Ah, but it’s different!” you may say, and I’d agree. There is a very big difference between the Lemonade Stand Kids and the Squeegee Kids. 

The Squeegee Kids really, really, really need the money. They do this not for fun, but for survival.

So, indulge me for a moment. Imagine a world where every driver greeted those young people with the appreciation and enthusiasm that they extend to the Lemonade Stand Kids.

Hear me out. 

Imagine parents making sure they always had a dollar in their car so their eager child could hand it to the young man and get a high five. Imagine feeling an inner happiness as you pulled up to the intersection and rolled down your window to say “good morning”, and “thank you” for a clean windshield. Imagine how that brief human interaction could brighten your day and theirs.

This is absolutely possible and the only thing it would take is a change in attitude. From us.

Doing these things would not make the squeegee kids disappear. It would make them wanted. It would make them valued. Can you imagine how that would impact their daily lives? If you can’t, think of the faces of children when you have stopped to make a purchase at a lemonade stand. They are filled with the expectation of good.

Now think of what a gift that would be to young people who turn out day after day on the street corners of Baltimore to wash windshields. It would be life changing, and not just for them. It would change us, too.We would begin to see squeegee kids the way we see our neighborhood children as they play at being shopkeepers: human, precious, full of potential. 

That gradual change in attitude could begin to change many other things.

*I’ve written about this recently (“Symptoms”) 

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