The cardboard signs are out. The kids are waving eagerly. The shout goes up loud enough to carry half a block in any direction.
In some ways, Longmont has changed very little. I remember doing the same thing – very briefly – when I was in grade school. It’s not a business model that any investor would pitch to Wall Street. Foot traffic is less common than it used to be. Cars are insulated against your pitch unless you’ve got a really good sign. And lately, the weather has been closer to Seattle in springtime, further depressing your product’s demand – except of course, for Mom and Dad, who are usually also your major wholesalers. (Don’t tell the FTC).
All of which is to say that I’ve already purchased two cups in two days from two different sellers. And I’ll probably buy another tomorrow if I see the chance.
It’s what you do.
This isn’t just me being a nice guy. A while back, I read a book of little things that police officers typically picked up on the job – small details, habits, trivia that might make its way into a novel someday. One of the items on the long, long, list was simply this: if you are on patrol, and you see kids on the sidewalk selling lemonade, you WILL buy some. If you have no cash, you WILL get some from an ATM and come back.
In that case, it’s part of community policing. But many of the same reasons apply even for those of us who don’t wear the badge. It makes you a neighbor instead of a face. It establishes trust. It means that if they or their family see you again, they’ll have a smile and the knowledge that you’re one of the good guys.
And these days, children can use all the good guys they can get.
Sometimes it seems like we do a lot to push them the other way. Oh, I know, if you look at the long-term trends, this is a pretty good time and place in history to be a child. But we fill the world with so much stress, and with so much to stress about, that it can even overwhelm the adults among us, never mind the young.
I was almost 13 when the Challenger exploded. It seemed like every classroom that day had a television or a radio on with images and news of the disaster – almost none of it new news, just the same trauma recycled over and over again. Schools don’t generally do that anymore, and with good reason: it doesn’t help. It’s like asking a Volkswagen Beetle to tow an elephant; even if you succeed, the slug bug’s not going to be in the best of shape afterward.
You measure. You moderate. You don’t isolate a child from reality, but you help them handle it on their terms. And you always let them know that there are people to turn to with their worries and fears. Parents. Teachers. Helpers and friends.
You don’t have to helicopter or coddle or swathe them in cotton and plush. But never destroy a child’s hope. Be the face to trust, the ear to listen, the proof that there are still people in the world who want to make it better instead of worse. Even if it means carrying an extra 50 cents in your pocket in case of lemonade ambush.
Besides, most of the time, it’s not bad lemonade.