Yesterday, for homework, I had my kids start by writing all the fun things they wanted to do on such a fine summery day. They had all kinds of ideas. They wanted to go to the waterslides, intertube, make sherbet, and go earring shopping! I then assigned them the task of writing a letter to each other trying to convince the other of what we should actually spend our day doing. This was all my highly manipulative way of getting them to do homework by seeing fun at homeowork’s end. So they wrote each other letters, edited all the missing periods and capitals and then stood up on the front porch and read them to one another. Aidan tried to convince Bella to go intertubing and Bella then tried to convince Aidan to have a lemonade stand. Because we don’t own a boat to intertube behind, we collectively decided we would put up their first lemonade stand . But it wasn’t going to be just any lemonade stand, it was going to have cookies and ice cream bars and popsicles too! I asked them what they were going to do with the money and they decided to take any profit down to the mission to feed the homeless. This lemonade stand became a great teacher!
The kids learned measurements and how to follow a recipe to make lemonade. They learned how to share duties and not squabble over who gets to do what. They learned how to shop on a budget and the importance of having good hygiene when selling food products. (We are otherwise an unbathed people.) They learned how to price items, how to greet customers and how to let people know what their money is going towards. Aidan, on his own accord said “I am going door to door.” And that kid hit the road knocking on the neighbors doors telling them to come on out! How bold! Bella learned to use her voice outside of her shyer self and beckon people yelling “Lemonade! Come get some lemonade!”
The school of lemonade stands taught me that you can make community happen. We had no plans yesterday. We could have done anything. We could have done house chores, gone to the beach, grocery shopped, or waited for something to come our way. We live in a pretty quiet neighborhood and all the neighbors keep to themselves. They are mostly older and don’t come out much and the street is such that it doesn’t invite people to hang outside and shoot the breeze. The lemonade stand drew people out of their homes, off the internet, out of the shade and through the woods, all to sip some cheap sun warmed fake lemons. The neighbor kitty corner came out in her Hawaiian moo moo and bought a cup. A mentor who lives 3 blocks down drove by to grab some refreshment and a break from putting in a sprinkler system in on of the hottest days of the year. The teacher across the street stopped by and talked football, retirement plans and memories of his kids growing up on this same corner. An older man came and bought an ice cream bar he never intended to eat just “to be kind” he said as it melted the entire time he sat next to me in a red adirondack. He talked about his son’s divorce, the burglaries in the hood and the family reunions he has inherited that used to be like funerals but he is trying to turn what is morbid into what should bring joy. Some neighbor boys rode their bikes through the woods because their parents saw the stand on facebook and bought way more ice cream than their parents probably wanted them too. The city workers came out in their hot uniforms. And by hot, I mean very warm, as to which I said, “Couldn’t you get the city to give you the shorts version of that get up?” I pay enough darn taxes…I mean…. (I wasn’t flirting. This was mere compassion.) The sweaty man in uniform laughed and proceeded with, “I will take two lemonades.” We saw many customers, chit chatted with neighbors, met new friends, spilled enough lemonade to quench the thirst of the entire mission, had trouble with giving change and made $32.42.
So a few meals will be enjoyed because my kids decided not to hit the beach. But I saw something else happen as a result of putting up this lemonade stand. They made community happen. People came out of their isolation. They had reason to. Neighbors were introduced to neighbors. Now people have a name with a face and an experience too. People rallied around a good cause. Good- because it was reminiscent of things past. Good -because it made two kids feel really special. Good- because people who cannot feed themselves will eat. Good – because people opened up with people. We live so isolated from one another. And even if we don’t feel isolated because we have our customary friends and family members that we choose to be with, we live in isolated communities. People drive home after work, wave to their neighbors and push the garage door button to open and push the garage door button to close. We rarely sit down with someone 50 years older than us and give them free license to share what they hold inside. If we are honest, most of us don’t even know our neighbors names. I finds that individuals spend a lot of time waiting for community to come to them. A neighbor can invite us to the potluck. A friend can call us for the coffee date. “They” can introduce themselves. “They” can invite us over. “They” can initiate the connection. We even wait for “they” to start the good cause. My kids were the “they” yesterday. “They” put up a lemonade stand and made community out of lemons.
It was that simple.
We are a people made to know one another, made to engage and connect relationally. We are a relational people. God made us that way and HE is a relational God. We see God all throughout history in the Bible connecting with His people and calling them to connect with one another. If today you feel lonely, if today you feel disconnected, if today you don’t feel known, put up a lemonade stand. Do something that draws community. Don’t be the person who waits for others to make it happen for you. Tell your blinds they open. Tell your friend, Mr. Internet that you can’t play today. Tell your tea kettle it’s time to steep for others. Tell your insecurities they are holding you back. Tell your depression it will only go away by you walking with others. You can make community out of lemons. You really can. I learned that from two pretty darn cute sun scorched kids.