Monday, December 8, 2008

Lessons from the Lemonade Stand

Day 69 - Photo 69. The state of the economy has weighed heavily on a lot of us this year. We've all been affected by it. We all know someone who's lost their job. Perhaps, even one of us. It seems gloomy. And as I write this letter Congress is attempting to reach a decision concerning a "bail out" for the auto industry. This morning as I drove past a local auto dealership, I couldn't help but think how much during the past year auto dealerships, and other businesses, have reminded me of when, as kids, we stood up our first business. The lemonade stand.

We always started out full of energy and enthusiasm. We lined up and down the street. Signs in hand, we jumped up and down touting the splendid flavor of our overly sweet (or overly sour) homemade concoction. Eventually we become discouraged by the lack of business and somewhere late in the day, we retreated to the safety of a huddle around stand. Lined up like bobble-head dolls, chins resting on our sticky hands, we're doing our best to look dejected. Our signs show the proof of lackluster business. Early prices are slashed through with heavy marker or crayon as if to testify to our willingness to make a deal. And in a last ditch effort unknowingly we make a brilliant adverting pitch. The youngest and cutest sibling is resurrected from the safety of our huddle. With a sign thrust into her tiny hands, she sits upon the edge of the stand where her tiny legs dangling back and forth. At the end of the day, the corner is littered with remnants of the business, the proceeds are tallied, overhead deducted and...the partners filing for bankruptcy.

Capitalism. The American Dream. We all wanted to make a buck. A quick buck. And the lesson most of us learned a long time ago? It takes hard work. The lemonade stand was our first real taste (no pun intended) of business. This is where the innocuous comparison ends. We, you and I, all of us...have each other. In our real life experience as the young lemonade entrepreneurs, Mom and Dad, or someone's mom and dad was always there to help us out. And this is not about parents bailing us out. This is about the idea that we stood together as a community. If one of us failed, we all failed and when one of us succeeded, we all enjoyed the benefits of the other's success. Don't believe I'm leading you down the merry path of Socialism. Nor is this about politics. I'm headed toward the idea that as Americans, as human beings, for us to pull ourselves up, we must invest in each other. Not an investment in corporate America, that comes later, but an investment at the very neighborhood level that supported our rickety lemonade stand because that experience was never really as bleak as I painted it to be. What we really learned was not to be greedy, treat your customers well, treat your employees like family and reinvest within that very same community that supported us.

And though I tend to believe we'd all be in trouble if (time to stop pointing fingers) the auto industry were to fail, it leaves me to wonder why so many people forgot the lessons from the lemonade stand. And leaves me asking the question, "Just how much lemonade were you drinking and how sweet was it? And how's it taste now?"

1 comment:

cheryl21 said...

Thank you for sharing your gifts of photography and journalism with us - and for bringing back the memories of lessons learned the hard way because there was no alternative, no easy out for most of us.