Two Ten Year-Old Girls and a Lemonade Stand: Yes, They Can (June 3, 2010)

As a student enrolled in a Lutheran grade school growing up, I learned each year, from each new instructor, that Jesus taught his disciples to live like children: view the world with wonder, seek truth with an innocent heart, and always maintain a basic sense of fairness and justice. I did not grow up to be a devout Christian, but there is still much to dig about JC and his universally applicable, deceptively simple, lessons.

We adults find the world very complicated, and no doubt that it is. But once in awhile, it does the soul good to be reminded that small actions can lead to big rewards. Change is possible, no matter how small, if you choose your spots wisely.

For those of you who read my last post “An Argument for Anarchy,” consider this a balance to that cynicism, not a cancellation mind you, just an equalizer. I did not set out to answer myself in this manner. I was perfectly content to stew in my own helpless, indignant juices. How was I to know I’d be shaken out of pissy reverie by two adorable urchins and a darned tasty brew of old fashioned lemonade?

As I alighted from the train yesterday afternoon, en route to my new church – the gym – I was immediately accosted by the dulcet, and cannily sales-savvy tones of two young voices, inquiring of passerby, “It sure is a hot day. Wouldn’t you like a glass of lemonade, perhaps a cookie?” Now I would have blessed the young spirit of entrepreneurship with my hard earned dollar had the pitch stopped there. However, I was completely caught off guard by what came next.

I was informed by these juvenile small businesswomen that the proceeds from their afternoon goody stand were to be directed, 100%, toward the funding of a new well dig in the war-torn Sudan region. Well as Flo of Mel’s Diner fame used to say, “Kiss my Grits!” These girls are cute, intelligent, with good hearts and social/worldly awareness? This is not what we have come to expect from our nation’s youth. In all the very best, spiritually invigorating ways, I was shaken to my core.

As the children’s beaming father stood by, coaching them to repeat what they knew of the conflict in Sudan and how they got the notion to raise money, the little ones informed me that they had been personally affected by the sight of starving, dehydrated children in images seen on the evening news. Apparently, they didn’t get my memo that the only thing to do with this world is to overthrow it and start fresh. “Let it burn” would not suffice for these earnest youngsters.

Having learned, through the benefit of Internet research, that it costs between $150-$225 to dig a well in Africa, the children rightly figured they could earn that much by taking advantage of some great late Spring weather in Chicago. Add some home made chocolate chips and a cooler full of fresh lemonade, and the girls may very well be on their way to saving lives. Sometimes it really is that simple.

These beautiful girls did not figure out how to plug up the BP oil leak in the Gulf. They have not reformed the banking industry, solved the Middle East peace crisis, or found a cure for cancer. But their good hearted interest in suffering children from another land taught me an important lesson about activism. Love your neighbor, no matter how far away, as yourself. That love will spread with a force of its own.

A glass of lemonade never tasted sweeter.

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