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Lessons from Lemonade

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The lemon tree in our backyard has had lemons on it every day since we moved in. The other day my daughter dragged one of the patio chairs under the tree and started reaching carefully between the thorns to pick them. She filled an old Easter basket with bright yellow fruit and ran inside calling to me to come make lemonade. Several cups of sugar later, the house smelled like heaven and my daughter proudly announced, “I’m making a lemonade stand!” 


I watched her out the kitchen window, sitting at the end of the driveway with her small kid’s table, her pitcher, three large red cups and a crayon sign that said, “Lemonade 50 cents.” She looked small and lonely sitting out there by herself. It’s a quiet street. Only the occasional dog walker passes by. She waved to passing cars, but no one stopped. She came inside for some paper and pencils and returned to her post.


Worries flitted through my mind. Do people really kidnap children right from the end of their driveway? Is that why we don’t know the neighbors? Or is that just some exaggerated anxiety that needn’t keep us so apart from one another? What if no one comes to the lemonade stand? Will she be crushed? Will this damage her developing relationship with the world? Will she somehow internalize the idea that no one wants what she has to offer?


She sat out there for an hour. She drew pictures. She waved at passing cars. She rooted through the trunk of my car and found a ball and glove. She put more signs on the fence. She drank some of the lemonade. No one stopped. No one bought lemonade. It was excruciating—for me!


Then suddenly she burst through the front door yelling, “I’ve got a buddy!” She dashed back out the door after snatching a few more cups. Out the kitchen window I saw that another girl, about my daughter’s size, had joined her at the lemonade stand. Where had this girl come from? How have we lived here for years and not noticed another girl my daughter’s age in the neighborhood? Soon another child joined them, then a toddler out walking with his grandmother. The lemonade pitcher slowly emptied and soon my kitchen filled with children and neighbors I had never met all passing lemons and mixing sugar and playful banter.


My daughter’s patience and leap of faith brought much more than an early lesson in business. Maybe the sign should have said, “Community 50 cents.”


Juli Idleman


This article originally appeared in the March issue of the Hand in Hand newsletter, Connecting!

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