If, like me, you were a kid who grew up in the suburbs, you inevitably spent at least one summer engaging in the great capitalist venture that is the lemonade stand. I was a proponent of the upside box decorated with an eye-catching amount of sparkles boasting overly-sweet (lukewarm) lemonade. But if you truly wanted to teach your children how survive in this dog-eat-dog capitalist society, better exchange the homemade drink for a financial literacy course.
Somewhere along the line some parent got the convoluted idea that the purpose of the lemonade stand was a life lesson, specifically in financial literacy. Having come out of adolescence relatively unscathed, I know that parents like every childhood activity to have a lesson, and the lesson is rarely fun.
Just Tuesday morning Michal Lemberger, a writer for Slate, denounced the lemonade stand as Rockwellian and appeared upset that innocent customers would pay a dollar for the 50 cent lemonade and then often refuse the refreshing beverage all together. According to Lemberger and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Terry Savage, this essentially undermines any lesson we try to teach our children about the value of money, hard work, and not relying on handouts. They blame it on nostalgia. Perhaps they're right. The tart smell of lemonade and the creative marketing techniques remind adults of our childhood and gives us a brief moment of recapturing the naivety of a summer lemonade stand.
However, the lemonade stand is by no means inconsequential. Not only is it a rite of passage in suburbia, but also there are some valuable life skills to learn from using adorable smiles to lure neighbors into spending a quarter on Dixie cups filled with powdered lemonade. Spending my childhood on a dead end, I was forced to take on the persona of a door-to-door salesman if I wanted to turn a profit. And I certainly learned from that. Some might even to venture to say I acquire some entrepreneurial business skills, like taking initiative, selling a product, and having proper face-to-face interactions.
Let's talk briefly about the lemonade stand that was actually transformed into a profitable success — Alex's Lemonade Stand. 4 year-old Alexandra Scott erected the stand in her front yard hoping to raise money to fight childhood cancer. Even after her death in 2004, what started as one stand blossomed into a national fundraising movment.
And children have been using their sugared drinks to make statements too. Maybe they were writing bank statements, but earlier this summer 5-year-old Jayden decide to set up the iconic lemonade stand nearby the Westboro Baptist Church in front of the rainbow adorned Equality House, hoping to "spread love, to spread compassion." Sadly (and not unexpectedly), churchgoers responded with a slew of hateful comments.
But these two courageous girls, and countless others, show us the power of the lemonade stand. And it's so much more than monetary. But its greatest power is to give kids that irretrievable piece of summer, the one that all adults long to return to, the one where all you needed to smile was a glass of lemonade.