Kindness, With a Twist of Lemonade

After several days of sun, we got a real scorcher here in BC. The temperature was up, shorts were on, and mouths were parched – perfect for a lemonade stand. All 6 of my kids were gung-ho to get the makeshift table out, the lemons squeezed, and the cups full. My wife and I had talked with the kids about setting up a ‘free’ lemonade stand as a lesson in generosity. The trend of late is that hot weather doesn’t just bring out the sweat, but also the dollar signs in my little ones’ eyes. A couple of them are true entrepreneurs.

The kids were excited to get out there. They lugged their setup two blocks down to the end of the road where lots of guests were sure to stop by. It wasn’t long before the first one came. With a big smile on the patron’s face, they complimented the kids on their work and slapped a loonie down on the table. Then, they continued on their way without a sip. The next guest at least had some lemonade, but did not leave without a donation to the cause. As a matter of fact, not one person passed by without leaving some change, a smile, and, most of the time, an empty cup. When the kids came home, their pockets were full, and their lemonade was gone.

I was at first inclined to be a little annoyed. Our lesson in generosity appeared to have failed. However, I quickly began to realize that the kids had indeed learned a lesson in generosity, as had I.

In trying to instill Christian virtue in my children, I have to be careful not to paint a picture of the world more bleak than it is. That can be difficult since we are inundated with media that is geared towards catching readers’ interest through conflict and negativity. Often times I get the overwhelming feeling that the only thing the media does with any conviction is attack Catholicism. Yet, while there are many opposed to our faith – some outside the Church, and some within – a realistic and reasonable approach is necessary in order to live and share our faith well. So, while we can assume everyone needs to hear the Gospel (including ourselves), we cannot assume that everyone is cold, jaded, or vicious.

But, sometimes I do; I assume selfishness in people. Yet, I don’t know the moral state of most people—few of us do—and whether they’re relying on natural virtue or supernatural virtue. It’s true, we are all born with original sin, and it has a profound effect on our behaviour, that is, our attitudes and choices. However, people are capable of generosity and kindness, self-control, courage, and wisdom on a natural level. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us we’re morally obligated to assume the opposite: that people are good (ST, II-II, Q.60, A.4). That they’re capable of doing good. And that our shared natural virtue is a point of connection for us.

I want to be real, not cynical. I want my kids to have hope in the world, not despair. Thank you God for the sunshine, for my kids, and this unexpected lesson in kindness.

by Scott Roy

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