Thursday, August 17, 2006

lemon philanthropy

I'm sitting here with my eldest, and he says to say "thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you..." to the people who came and bought drinks from us today. An especial big thanks goes to R and E, who bought three! drinks and came after reading about the stand on this blog.

Here's the story behind our day, lo now these many months ago (June, to be precise):

I had given a talk for the local childrens hospital, to their philanthropic (aka hit you up for cash) arm. As a way of saying thank you, I was loaded with teddy bears and coloring books and a book called something like '26 Steps: A Child's Guide to Philanthropy.' I was a bit surprised to be so weighted, as my talk had been largely about why it isn't a good thing to tell our oh-so not-quite tragic story, and why perhaps we really shouldn't. And yet.

In the book was a number of stories about kids who decided to raise money for the hospital. All had some connection to the place, whether personal or they knew a kid who'd gone there, was going there, etc. These kids went door to door, donated bat mitzva gifts, had lemonade stands - all of which raised money that they triumphantly donated. Each story came with a take-away, as they say in corporate speak, but as this is a book for kids, the take-away was (wisely) an object. One was a recipe card for lemonade. Another was a small charity box, shaped like a cute caterpillar.

Child: Let's build the box!
parent does so.
Child: Let's fill the box!
parent mentally slaps head, then empties change purse into box. Parent and child rifle the partner's change stash to finish the job.
Grand total: $3.43

The next day, we went to the allergy clinic at the hospital. This was an appointment for the babes, during which I would studiously ignore the Eldest for about two hours. I'd brought an evil DVD player, complete with Mary Poppins, and planned to plug him in. Still...

I called my friend over at the arm-twisting branch, and she agreed to come and ceremoniously accept the caterpillar box. We met before the appointment, and she'd brought a nicely elaborate certificate of donation, and....another box, this one three times the size of the first.

Later that day:
Child: Let's build the box!
parent does so.
Child: Let's fill the box!
parent groans, then points out that no change purse in the world will fill that large object. Parent and child plan a better way to extract monies to fill the tea-cup dog-sized thing.

One lemonade stand later, we had this: $40.96. The child sold organic lemonade and iced tea at 50 cents a cup, and get this: we only sold 38 cups. Tells you something about the persuasive power of a cute child, sweetly asking you to buy a drink on a hot day, no? Or maybe it was the combination of child and worthy cause. And yes, there were those few whose eyes I watched flick from child to MedicAlert bracelet, and they probably figured out the 'why' to the cause chosen. And maybe it says something about the liberal folk of Cambridge (now pay attention here, jgfellow), because while their politics might spring from the heart, so too comes a bit of good will.

At dinner that night, the young captain of industry turned to me and asked, 'Mum, have you ever spoken to God?' Cautiously, thinking of Amber Tamblin and certain people who say that they have, indeed, spoken to the Big Guy, I said, 'no, I haven't.' 'But what does His voice sound like?' he pursued. 'I don't know, sweetie,' I said, sticking to my line. 'I think it sounds like thunder and lightening,' he informed me. Scrambling a bit, I tried again: 'I think that you can feel God in your heart,' I said, treading very carefully. 'Like when you've done something good, you know that it was the right thing to do from your feelings. Perhaps that's a bit of God that you feel?' He nodded, satisfied.

There's time enough to introduce him to the remote versus the active deity debate later. For now, if I can use God as a tool to help him to listen to himself and to develop a barometer for the nature of his actions, then that's enough God for a four year old, I think. It's too easy for God to be the great punisher, the big kahuna who will slap you down if you are bad. Why bother? Better to let the kid internalize the role of judging his own behaviour.

Either way, internal or external, I'm pretty sure something or Someone gave the kid a pat on the back that night, because he had indeed done Good.

As part of an effort to prove to myself (among others) that yes, there really *is* good food available to us, here's the lemonade night's dinner menu. Please note that I was assisted in the kitchen by a handsome young (very young) line cook.

Indian spiced salmon, broiled (a small area left spice-free for the sensitive of palate)
leftover mushroom fried rice
green salad

dessert: sliced bananas in a bath of orange-lemon juice, with brown sugar and coconut on top. Baked. Heavenly!


dykewife said...

that's quite the sweet boy you have :)

the oldest son of a friend of mine has mild cerebral palsy. for the past couple of years, instead of giving him birthday presents, people were asked to donate money in his name to the cerebral palsy association. i thought that was a brilliant idea.

mama o' the matrices said...

I have this long standing problem with birthday loot, and that *is* a lovely idea!