According to those who make calendars, summer is officially over on September 23rd. Sadly, the end of summer also means the end of most neighborhood lemonade stands.
I love lemonade stands.
In fact, my wife and children know that it is almost impossible for me to drive past a neighborhood lemonade stand. I’ll circle blocks, make illegal U-turns, and drive over rusty nails and shards of glass to get to a neighborhood stand. I’ll even call my wife and kids and ask them to get in their car and go get some lemonade.
It goes back, of course, to my grade school days when I proudly operated my very own lemonade stand in my front yard. I remember setting up the table by the street, making the signs, and wondering how much to charge for a wonderful ice-cold glass of lemonade; a nickel, a quarter? Is a glass of lemonade worth a quarter?
Of course, mom would help make the lemonade and would even supply a small box of change. Then, finally, after all the preparations were made, it was time to sit in the chair behind the table and wait for the line of cars to show up driven by thirsty people.
That’s usually where the entire operation broke down.
Long, lonely minutes would creep by as I sat there anxiously waiting for a car—any car—to pull down my street. And nothing would crush my spirit more than when a car would finally come into view only to rumble past without giving me or my lemonade a second thought. (There’s just something un-American about that.)
There is one summer day that stands out in my life as a lemonade salesman. It was a particularly hot day and ideal for selling lemonade. No one, however, seemed interested in my stand. Cars were driving by that day, but none stopped. My ice had melted. The lemonade was hot. The apple I had set on the table to give away as an incentive to my first customer was rotting. Yet, no one stopped. And I was fairly miserable.
I was just beginning to close up shop when off in the distance, I noticed a car coming my way. It was a familiar car. It was my Dad’s car, and Dad was in it. He pulled up to my stand and rolled down the window. “How’s business, young man?” he asked with a big smile. All I remember was bursting into tears.
The next thing I know, Dad is asking for a glass of lemonade and about the rotten apple on the table. “Are you selling that apple, too?” he asked still smiling. I guess I managed a “yes” through my sobs but informed him it was a little rotten. “My favorite kind,” I heard back.
I have a vivid memory of handing my Dad the warm glass of lemonade and then the rotten apple through the window of his car. He leaned back and drank the lemonade in one long swallow, smacked his lips and stared at that rotten apple…and took a big bite.
He reached into his wallet and pulled out a bill and handed it to the little boy trying to overcome his heavy sobs. He said a big “thanks” and drove away. He was around the corner and out of sight by the time I looked in my hand and saw the bill he had pushed in my hand. Twenty dollars!
Have you ever gone from despair to joy in under a second? Well, I certainly did that hot summer day. It left a powerful imprint on me that lasts to this very day.
It is easy to drive by lemonade stands. After all, we’re busy and have places to go and people to meet. But sometimes, if you stop and invest in a “small cup of warm lemonade and maybe even a rotten apple,” you may never know the impact it could leave on someone’s life. In fact, God could even use it to turn someone’s despair into joy.