Let the lemonade flow
It’s about as American as it gets: A kid opening a lemonade stand to make some spare change on a hot summer day.
At least, it used to be.
Now, for some reason, some local municipalities are declaring war on this age-old tradition. And our kids are getting caught in the squeeze.
Not long ago in Coralville, Iowa, police shut down a four-year-old’s stand before it had been open for an hour.
Around the same time in Georgia, police torpedoed the lemonade stand of three girls trying to raise money to go to a water park. They were told they could reopen it after they purchased a business license, peddler’s permit, and food permit at a cost of $180 dollars each.
So much for the trip to the water park.
I’m not sure exactly when we declared war on common sense and incentive in this country, but it appears the guns are a-blazin’. And kids with ambition and drive are in the crosshairs.
I never operated a lemonade stand as a child, but a lot of my friends did. It was quite common to see stands in front yards all over town on a hot July day. Some kids even threw in a cookie and some ice to give their place of business an edge. They’re probably among the more successful business people today.
In the early ’80s, I was driving to the grocery store one July day and spotted a cute young girl in her front yard with a lemonade stand in full song. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight.
It was a particularly hot day, and the air conditioning in my car wasn’t working at the time, so that lemonade called to me.
I stopped, got out of my car, and approached the small table she sat behind at the edge of her yard. She hadn’t had many customers that afternoon, and the hot sun was taking its toll on her ice-cold merchandise.
I asked her how much a cup of that “delicious looking lemonade” would cost. “Ten cents” was the reply. I bought a cup and drank it right there.
“Ten cents wasn’t nearly enough for that delicious treat,” I told her, so I gave her all the change I had in my pocket. She made off with better than a dollar in that one transaction.
Her smile was worth every penny. “Thank you,” she said, beaming with pride.
I didn’t give that moment another thought until many years later. I was at a social event in town, and a beautiful young lady in her twenties approached me.
“I’m sure you don’t remember me,” she said softly, “but a long time ago, I had a lemonade stand in my parents’ front yard, and you were one of the few customers I had that day. You bought a cup from me, and I’ve never forgotten it.”
I was touched by that encounter. A seemingly insignificant moment in my life became an unforgettable moment in hers. I suddenly remembered it well, and we had a nice conversation about it.
“You drove up in a light blue car,” she remembered. Yes, I did. It was that horrible ‘78 Malibu I drove for several years. I used to joke that it went from zero to sixty in about twenty-five minutes.
We talked more, the years faded away, then she offered her thanks one more time. She slipped into the crowd and vanished from my sight.
What a nice memory.
I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical reason we’re discouraging children from dipping their toes into the river of free enterprise through the setting up of a simple lemonade stand.
It could be fear; the fear of a lawsuit because someone might become ill from drinking the lemonade. Or maybe it began because a disgruntled merchant lost an afternoon’s worth of beverage sales because of an ambitious youngster. Everyone must play by the same rules, we’ve reasoned.
But life is anything but logical, and we should never be driven by fear of what “might” happen. And when it comes to the rules, can’t we bend them just a little to inspire an enterprising mind?
Here’s hoping we regain our senses and the lemonade flows once again, prepared with love by beautiful young hands.
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.
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