Friday, April 10, 2009

When it comes to lemonade stands, the glass is always half full

I was driving pretty fast on Mammoth Road. It had been a long afternoon of working my beat in Derry and I needed a bathroom, not a drink. But something about the kid with the crazy glasses made me turn the van around. Actually, it was more the sign in his hands: "Lemonade. 22 Ashley Drive." I saw him leaning it against a fence. He looked like he was being stealthy. He was gone by the time I made the U-turn.
Honestly, if I hadn't seen him with the sign, I would have missed the sign completely. It was barely readable at 50 mph.
I followed my heart and my inability to pass up a lemonade stand to a small side street where I found a mob of kids swarming a makeshift storefront -- a couple of girls with paper bunny ears hopping about, but mostly boys-- all kinds of boys. They were pumped.
"Wanna buy some lemonade?" One of them said, sticking his face right into my open passenger side window.
I was ready to pay top dollar, or at least, a dollar, for a small cup of ambition.
"How much is your lemonade?" I asked.
"Sixty-five cents," said the kid, who seemed like maybe he was just picking an arbitrary number.
Then another kid came up and asked if I wanted a small or a large. I asked if there was a difference in price. He hesitated.
Too late, my large cup of fresh-squeezed entrepreneurial spirit was coming toward me.
My dollar didn't seem so generous at these inflationary prices, and what with all these salesmen.
I fumbled for another dollar. That's when Bunny Ears hit me up for more.
"You didn't buy any candy. Do you want some candy?" she said, like a spritely Frank to my not-so-Donnie Darko. "Aren't these cute?" she said, wiggling one of the gray-stuffed critters she and her friend were traveling with up near my face.
"What'cha got?" I said, grabbing my change purse through the open van window as I followed Bunny Ears toward the stand, as if I had no power to resist.
They pointed to a Ziploc bag full of random, somewhat melty-looking candy. I saw a candy necklace, some Snicker's minis, and a few tiny Twix bars.
"Twix," I said firmly. "How much?"
"That's 50 cents," said the tallest kid who looked like he was changing the numbers on the sign, from 45 to 50, at that exact moment.
I dumped all the change from my change purse and handed it off to another kid. I estimated it to be about another $1.67. He needed two hands to hold it.
"Do you think this is enough?" he asked the kid with the erasable markers.
"Yeah," said the number cruncher, scribbling "tips accepted" at the bottom of the sign board.
"Woo Hoo," yelled another. "Our first customer! We're rich! I'm gonna go get a money box." And he was gone.
During the transaction, I noticed a dad step outside of 22 Ashley to make sure the stranger his kids were giving candy to didn't seem like too much of a creep.
I smiled at the dad and drove off after snapping a photo of this industrious gang of nine.
Maybe it was too much to pay for 2 ounces of lemonade in a 20-ounce cup and a bite-size Twix, but I never get over the thrill of reinforcing the notion to a bunch of kids that there is great power in stepping outside yourself, offering something to the world and waiting to see if it matters.
Because it matters.