The Kindness of Strangers

Jul 30, 2023

This past weekend the girls put on their entrepreneurial caps and planned, prepared, and operated their second annual lemonade stand.  It was full of the goodies and fanfare that one might expect from a Bean family affair – fresh-squeezed juice, homemade scones, cookies and muffins, jumbo freezies and, of course, a display full of balloons, colour and one killer soundtrack.  Planning these things out, while fun, also comes with a couple of nagging questions that hover around in the back of the mind: will anyone come?  Will the weather cooperate?  To the latter – we had a beautiful day, to the former – the whole experience touched me in the most heart warming of ways and reminded me that this world is full of good, provided we are willing to open our arms to it.

While I know I was young and the memories are there, I admittedly can’t recall the precise age I would have been when I set up up my own little lemonade stand back in the day.  Likely it was around the same age as my kids are today, and just like them, I had a table and chairs, which I set proudly on my front lawn, topped with prepared pitchers of lemonade and Kool-Aid for the locals to enjoy.  We lived in a fairly dense neighbourhood and I think I did relatively well with my little business, collecting quarters from the kind folks who stopped by my humble little shop.  I didn’t recognize it in the moment, but after experiencing the events of this past weekend, and reflecting back on my own childhood, I see now how people were supportive in ways that seem to have sub-consciously influenced me in the 30+years that followed.

See, to the best of my knowledge, no one really sets out of their house in the early to mid-morning looking for a lemonade stand; you don’t typically put the event on a calendar or on par with a garage sale, for example, and so the folks who stop by. are doing so primarily because they see an opportunity to support a younger generation.  There are exceptions to this, I’m sure, but by and large, I personally believe that people see a lemonade stand and two things immediately cross their mind: 1) “Oh, I remember doing that when I was a kid” and 2) “I want these kids to feel supported, successful, and confident”.  It’s like a trigger in our brains that we finally have an opportunity, decades later, to pay the experiences of our own juice stand forward and inspire new generations.  You see lemons?  I see the future.

So, let’s fast forward over the years since my little operation closed and consider the events of this past weekend, to which I will draw attention to a few specific encounters.

The Watch

To the kind and well-humoured man who pulled over in his car, approached the stand and requested “two fresh lemonades for two awesome girls”:

Thank you for stopping.  Thank you for creatively flipping the prices and buying lemonade for my kids and recognizing them as being awesome.  Thank you for the kind words you expressed to them and the memories you shared of your own daughter running her own stand when she was around the same age.  Thank you being charismatic and genuinely nice.  Thank you for encouraging them to work through the math of the change they would owe you.  Thank you for giving them that change back as a tip.  Thank you for making us laugh during the time you spent at the booth.  Thank you for being good.

I must also use this time to let you know that, as you got back into your car and drove away, something fell off the trunk and onto the road.  We dashed over as quickly as we could to pick it, and I did my best to chase after you to let you know that your watch, which must have been placed on your trunk at some point earlier in our interaction, is now in our possession and we wanted to return it to you.

I’ll go ahead and blame the feeble attempts at an uphill run of a 42-year old frame of man trying to chase down a moving vehicle for not being able to catch you in time.  So with this in mind, I have your watch and it is my hope that I can return it to you someday, perhaps with the help of others who would be willing to pass this knowledge around.   If you are missing a silver Fossil watch, then please comment or email me and I will happily come and return it to you.

The Stroller

To the grandfather who crossed the road with a stroller:

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to come and visit our little stand.  Thank you for the genuine kindness of your words of encouragement and support to my children.  Thank you for reminding them (and me) that people, such as yourself, can be giving, kind and generous and the only thing asked in return is to remember that such acts of kindness can be performed by anyone, so paying it forward is an ability we are all equipped with.

The words you shared with me: “I remember the kindness of strangers when I was a child running my own stand, and it is now finally my turn to repay those debts of gratitude”, will stick with me and, just as I promised you before you left our little booth, I will follow in your footsteps one day.

The Town

The to place we call home and the people within it:

Thank you for being the community that you are.  Thank you for seeing the spirit and pride that my girls had put into their endeavours, and supporting and encouraging them to follow even the smallest of dreams and ideas.  Thank you for letting them understand that something as seemingly insignificant as a lemonade stand can actually lead to bigger and wonderful lessons, learning and planting the seeds for even bigger ideas.  Thank you for showing me that, while we are surrounded by neighbours and familiar faces, those who traveled to our little corner of Ontario from afar are just as much a part of this World as any of us, capable of good deeds and wanting to spread kindness.

The number of people who came by to express the joy they felt in seeing what we had put together was touching.  Sure, it’s only lemonade and baked goods, but I feel that my two amazing girls created and offered something so much beyond that, and it could only have been the success that it was with the kindest of strangers.



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