The Golden Lemonade Rule

I keep spare change in a small compartment in my car. It is reserved for the express purpose of tipping the baristas at the drive-thru coffeehouse and for buying lemonade. Without exception, when I spot a child-run lemonade stand (or whenever a kid has drawn up a poster advertising items for sale) I stop and I buy. I don’t always want lemonade.  In truth, I rarely do. Often my new purchase is later pitched into the trash.  It doesn’t matter. My desire for the product plays no part in my decision to stop and purchase it.  For I am obliged to a higher calling, The Golden Lemonade Rule.

The Golden Lemonade Rule is this: Do unto the child at that lemonade stand as you would have had every car that passed you by while you were the child with high hopes and over-watered kool-aid do unto you.  In other words, stop and buy the danged lemonade.  And do it with a smile and a word of praise to the young entrepreneurs.  It’s an exercise in empathy. One that takes such little effort on our part but makes such a positive impact in the life of that child.

Last week some neighborhood children hosted a bake sale to benefit our city’s homeless. They had labored over their wares and their set up. Their pride for the endeavor shone in their twinkling eyes. I stopped, of course, to purchase a treat for myself and a few extras to share with my children. In the short time I was at their table selecting from all the goodies they had laid out, a few other cars drove by. Each time the children would see a car approaching they would flag their signs and break into a little ditty they had written and rehearsed for the occasion. It was precious to watch. What wasn’t precious to observe was when the drivers of these other cars would wave at the children but drive on by, or worse, pretend not to notice them at all. I would watch their sweet faces fall with each passing car. All that enthusiasm dashed by someone who, with minimal effort, could have made those children quite literally jump for joy.

Maybe you’ve been the driver of one of those cars.  Maybe you’ve waved at those kids but felt no compulsion to stop at their sale.  Certainly it wasn’t your intention to dash their spirits, you just had other things on your mind.  That’s reasonable. But I’d like to challenge you to step outside of yourself for a moment, for this is where the exercise in empathy comes into play. Empathy is nothing more than trying to view a given situation from another party’s perspective.  In this instance, I would ask you to take a brief moment to think back to when you were a child. Think about when you hosted a lemonade stand or a bake sale, or went door to door to solicit for school or sports fundraisers, or any number of childhood endeavors where you relied on the generosity of adults. Think about how disheartening it was to be told “No” time and again, and likewise, how overjoyed you were when someone made a purchase or a pledge.  

But what if empathy just doesn’t come naturally to you? Maybe you never hosted a lemonade stand or the like. Maybe you were never in a position to rely on the generosity of adults. Maybe you never were a child at all; maybe you were born a high-strung forty-year-old with a mortgage, a dead-end job, and no soul…although that’s highly unlikely.  Or maybe, just maybe, somewhere between birth and present day you lost that childhood wonder, that lust for life that keeps us young at heart. No matter if you’re an old curmudgeon or just oblivious, there is virtually no excuse for not adhering to The Golden Lemonade Rule.

You don’t have proper change?  Give the kid a twenty and blow their impressionable little mind!  A few bucks on an unplanned expense isn’t going to be the tipping point that lands you in the poor house.  You’re running late to work?  The additional 60 seconds that it takes to hand over your change and grab a cup of lemonade isn’t going to lose you your job. You’re rushing someone to the hospital because they’ve severed a limb or are actively birthing a baby?  Okay, you get a free pass. But hit the lemonade stand on the way home!

For the price of a couple quarters and only a few of the 86,4oo seconds out of your day, you can prolong a child’s innocence and allow them to believe in the goodness of humanity for a little while longer. And, as it is with The Golden Rule, The Golden Lemonade Rule does not solely benefit the receiver, but the giver also gains in equal measure. For each time we exercise our heart, it grows stronger.  And as our heart grows stronger, our perception of the world is illuminated.

So the next time you see a child standing by the roadside, waving and smiling, the ice in their lemonade pitcher long ago melted from hours sitting out in the warm summer sunshine, Stop.  Buy.  Make the world a better place.  The kind of place you yourself would like to live in.  The kind of place where life doesn’t just hand kids lemons, but it buys the  lemonade they make from them.

Open Letter to an Aspiring B*tch

Dear 10-year old girl that I was assigned to chaperone while accompanying my son's fourth-grade class on today's field trip,

I could tell immediately that you thought you were hot stuff by the way you talked down to your classmates and disrespected the accompanying adults.  But I didn't realize how rotten you were until the day progressed.

You started out with subtle insults, like telling the other kids in our group that the things at the museum they were interested in learning about were stupid. I cringed but said nothing. Instead, I just affirmed that I too found those items interesting and I led the group to that area. You didn't care much for that.

Later you went a step further and told one of the boys in our group that you didn't think he was capable of operating an interactive device – although all the other kids in the group had already done so successfully – and told him he shouldn't even bother to attempt it. You even tried to push him out of the way and make him feel incompetent by showing him how easy it was for you. I asked you to wait your turn and I encouraged the boy to keep trying. I told him that I had faith in him. You huffed off, not waiting around to witness the boy go on to accomplish the task like a champ.

Later, when you were sitting next to me, I whispered a gentle reminder in your ear, "You should encourage your friends," I said. Instead of taking that piece of wisdom to heart, you shot back, "Technically, he's not my friend." To which I replied, "It is important to be kind to everyone."  You just rolled your eyes.

A little while later you were standing with a group of girls from your class. One had brought a Polaroid camera on the field trip. You all were passing the camera around to take group selfies. Two other girls leaned into the frame with you. When the camera spit out the undeveloped photo, you snatched it before anyone else had a chance. Once the photo came into view one of the other girls asked if she could keep the print, you shoved it at her, saying; "Fine! You guys look ugly in it anyway."

Unfortunately, I wasn't close enough to say something to you at the time, but I saw the hurt looks on the other girls' faces and I hurt for them.  I wished I could have spoken into their hearts and told them that they are beautiful, that it was your behavior that was ugly.

Apparently you still hadn't yet met your daily quota of belittling others. Only a few minutes later, one of the girls in our group called out to some other kids passing not far away; she waved and smiled with youthful exuberance, kindly greeting her fellow classmates.  You took that opportunity to say to her, in front of myself and all of the other kids in our group, "You know, those kids don't like you."
That was the last straw. With all the couth I could muster, I said to you; "Don't you ever say that to someone."  You didn't appreciate my input and replied, "Well it's true."  To which I said with steely eyes; "There is never a reason to say something so hurtful to someone else. You are being a bully and it needs to stop."

You and all the other kids in our group went quiet and stared at me with slack jaws. Except for my son.  He just chuckled and said, "Well, now you got a taste of what my mom is like." His smile broke the tension. He wasn't embarrassed that his mom had just put you in your place. He was just stating a fact. You see, that is what I'm like. I don't put up with bullsh*t or cruel behavior: not from my own children, not from other adults, and not even from a young girl I just met a couple hours before. In fact, I was proud of my son for recognizing this character trait of mine and confidently bringing it to the attention of his peers; it was affirmation that I model the behavior I am training my kids to emulate.

You didn't say another word to me for the remainder of the field trip. You didn't say another word to anyone, for that matter. Maybe you were letting my words soak in. Most likely you were just sulking. Either way, the nastiness stopped, and for that I was grateful.

Young lady, I'm not sure what your home life is like, what you've been through, what's made you into the aspiring b*tch that you are, but I want you to know that it's not too late for you. You still have time to change the trajectory of your life, to adopt a new perspective and a new set of behaviors. You don't have to follow that all-too-easy path to becoming a full-fledged Mean Girl.

I want you to know that if you need someone to encourage and embolden you toward empathy, I'm here for you. If you need someone safe to talk to about your fears and insecurities, I'm here. If you need a shoulder to cry on because someone has been hurtful to you, I'm just a heartbeat away.

You see, every nasty word that came out of your mouth today made my heart break for you. Every despicable act of snobbishness, I recognized for what it truly was. People don't behave that poorly unless something inside of them is broken. I'm here and I'm willing to help you glue those broken pieces back together.  I believe there is a tender-hearted girl inside you that desperately wants to come out but you're too afraid of being vulnerable. I understand.  I've been there too. I'm willing to take the time to listen to you and to help you learn to be confident and assertive without purposely hurting others. Because guess what, you little sh*t, I love you despite yourself.

With hope for who you can become,

Kristin

The Curious Incident of the Lady in the Corvette, pt. 2

I grew up with money. My father owned his own business and was very successful. We had a large house, nice cars, and we took expensive vacations. But my parents weren’t prideful about their money, nor did they ever think that having an abundance of resources exempted them from treating all others with dignity and human kindness. In the little time he had off from his hectic work schedule, my father could be found plowing the snow off our street in the wee hours of the morning so that our neighbors could get their cars out to go to work, or helping a friend with a home improvement project. Because my father’s business generated enough income on its own, my mother was able to stay home and be available to us kids while we were young. When we grew older and more independent she volunteered a great deal of her time at various ministries and civic organizations where she could give of herself, and sought nothing in return except the personal satisfaction she gained from helping others. 
Although we had plenty of money, my parents bought used cars, shopped at garage sales, repaired broken items instead of trashing them, and never ever flaunted their wealth. They were the elusive millionaires next door. A friendly couple that one would never suspect sat on a small fortune. A fortune amassed from years of hard work and wise financial decisions. This is the ethic I was raised with.

I was also raised to follow the golden rule; to do to others as you would wish them to do to you. That mantra guides my actions every day of my life. Now, I’m not claiming to be perfect…not by a long shot. I can still be quite selfish and rude and hurtful to others. And at times, I can be downright nasty. But that is never my intention. My desire is to build others up. My hope is that I might leave each person I encounter feeling more positive about themselves. 

Unfortunately, when I have an encounter like the one I had last weekend with the lady in the Corvette, I can sometimes lose my focus and my cool. I can become filled with righteous indignation and instead of spreading joy, I can spew venom. I don’t like this about me.  God doesn’t much like this about me either. I’m supposed to be a representative of him, and I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t approve of me snapping at the lady in the Corvette. 

I’m not offering an excuse for my actions, but let me take a moment to explain how I got there.  You see, Christ teaches that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. So, when what is asked of a person is minimal and within reason (such as backing your car up a few feet to make room for someone else to park) there is no acceptable excuse not to act accordingly. In fact, it should be ones pleasure to do so. It would have taken zero resources and literal seconds of Corvette Lady’s time for her to engage in the simplest act of humanity, but she refused. Instead she mocked me as I labored in vain to fit my van into the tight space. And when I approached her and asked her to back up, she quarreled with me about it. To say I was dumbstruck would be an understatement. One has to make the conscious decision to be a complete and utter jackwagon in this situation. There was no misunderstanding of what my need was, but still she made the cognitive decision to put herself before everyone else.  

When she saw me trying to back into the space, she had the chance to move her car the necessary distance to assist me without having to be asked. But she didn’t.  When I asked her to back up her car a few feet, she could have said “Sure”. But she didn’t. When our conversation took a more heated tone, she could have remained in her car instead of jumping out to make herself a physical threat. But she didn’t. And she could have decided, even after all that, to say “Fine, I’ll back up, but you don’t have to be such a b*tch about it.” Even that would have been acceptable to me, because by that point, I was being a b*tch about it. But still, she didn’t.  She had lots of opportunities to do the right thing long before I nearly snapped and considered ramming her car, but doing the right thing was nowhere on her radar…although it would have saved us both a lot of grief. 

Unfortunately what happened next is all on me. I was so flustered by the event that I decided to post a short rant about it on Facebook. Typically this wouldn’t have been a big deal. I would have aired my grievance and felt better for having vented. But I didn’t stop with my little rant.  I posted the photo I took of the back of her car along with it…license plate exposed. I acknowledge that my decision was an unsavory one intended to call her out publicly, although she was a complete stranger to me. In hindsight, I should have just written the post and not included the photo. If I had, the following events would have never unfolded. But I did. And this is what happened…

Someone on my Facebook friend list recognized the car in the photo and contacted the woman with the Corvette about it. The Corvette Lady then sent me a private message via Facebook, which went something like this:

“I was parked in that spot for nearly  2 ½ hours before you arrived, but you didn’t care about that at all. You were very rude to me and it was obvious that you are used to getting your way. I’ll have you know that I’ve worked very hard for all of the things that I have…not that you would know anything about that, since you are fat and lazy. It wouldn’t have hurt you to walk the extra three blocks to the complex.”

I did not reply to her, but deleted the message. Then, because the whole incident was still weighing heavy on my mind, yesterday I wrote the first half of this story on my blog. My blog site is preset to automatically post a link to both my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I have an update so that my followers know to check it out.  Unfortunately, the same person who tattled on me to Corvette Lady regarding my original facebook post also saw the link to the blog post and became irate. Although all she knew of the encounter was what I had written and the wildly contradictory version of the episode she was given from Corvette Lady, she went about slamming me on my Facebook page. She called me a liar. A hypocrite. A shame to the Christian faith. She misquoted me multiple times and refused my offer to sit down with her so that we might discuss the incident face to face. She said that I was a bully and so were all of the other people who had posted comments regarding the blog. 

While her rant was irritating to read, I was actually quite fascinated that she, just like her friend the Corvette lady, took a neutral incident and escalated it into a confrontation.  The blog post was a story. My story. Writen by me, from my point of view, to tell about an incident in my life from my personal perspective. I mentioned no names, I did no one any harm. Still, she went about shaming me and name-calling. Each time I tried to diffuse the situation she went for the jugular. In the end I had to block her from my page to put a stop to her relentless attack.

Interestingly enough, when the Corvette lady sent me the private message I learned her name. Her name rang a bell, so I did a quick Google search to refresh my memory and sure enough, she owns a local business. A business associated with her name. In fact, her face is plastered on adverts all over this area of town (I hadn’t recognized her at the time because the face she wore with me was twisted in anger, not the smiling face of the lovely professional headshot.) The business she’s in relies a great deal on word of mouth and positive customer reviews.  One would think that a person in her position would be especially cautious about how she treats others in public as you never know where your next business reference will come from and likewise, as in this instance, who might witness or otherwise catch wind of any unpleasantness and use that as fuel to harm your livihood.

Luckily for Corvette Lady I am not vendictive and petty (or I would have rammed her car). Although I feel very strongly that she initiated the wrong in this incident, it is possible she was just having an off day. Lord knows I was. God shows each of us grace when we least deserve it, the least I can do is extend that gift to others. 

So Corvette Lady, wherever you are, I’m sorry I was rude to you.  I was wrong and I ask your forgiveness. I hope that we can put this incident behind us.  And if our paths cross again, I hope that it can be a cordial encounter. 

However, please understand that whenever I am witness to an act of injustice or inhumanity, you can bet your bottom I’m going to step up and intervene. And there’s a good chance I’ll blog about it too.

The Curious Incident of the Lady in the Corvette, Pt. 1

I had an unpleasant run-in with a stranger the other day. The encounter occurred at a large children’s sports complex where my son was to have a rec-league soccer game. We arrived at the complex twenty minutes prior to the game, but the parking lot was already jam-packed and cars spilled out onto the surrounding streets for blocks. Dozens more cars arrived by the minute, all swarming around the perimeter of the complex, hoping against hope to find a spot within walking distance. I dropped my son off at the entrance so he could join his team for pre-game practice while I slowly snaked my way through the chaos of congestion in search of a place to park my minivan. 

I watched as dozens of patrons lugged folding chairs, blankets, sports gear, snacks and siblings as they trudged for blocks, all headed one direction – toward the complex. No one seemed to be leaving. As it was, my search for a nearby space seemed futile and I had all but resigned myself to following the long chain of cars parallel parked along the neighboring streets until I came to the tail end, then add my own. That is, until I came across a relatively wide breach in the chain. A single car, a red late model Corvette, was planted awkwardly along a fifty-foot stretch of prime curb real estate. It was parked in such a way that there were about ten linear feet of curb behind the Corvette, maybe enough space to park a motorcycle, but definitely not a car. However, in front of the Corvette was a space large enough for a full-size vehicle such as my own… if a crane were to lift said vehicle and skillfully place it into the space. Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite enough wiggle room for the back and forth motion necessary to parallel park. However, as luck would have it, I noticed that a female driver was still sitting inside the Corvette.  I relished in my good fortune!  I now needed only to get her to back her car up a few feet, as she had room to spare, and I could take advantage of this coveted location.

Let me pause for a moment and clarify that I live in a small suburb just outside of Wichita, Kansas, in the heart of the Bible belt. A good majority of the population here are neighborly folks. They smile and wave and lend each other a helping hand.  The Golden Rule is the law of the land. And so it was that I did not think it would be necessary for me to first approach the woman in the Corvette to ask her to please back up and make room for my car, I presumed that she would identify my need and comply accordingly.

Just like they taught us in high school driver’s education class, I pulled up beside the car in front of the parking space and began the precision maneuvering required to back into the spot. As I inched my way back toward the luxury sports car, I assumed the woman would see my van drawing closer and closer to her front end and would put her vehicle in reverse to give me the extra space needed to park along the curb. I assumed wrong. Instead, as I peered at her through the reflection in my rear view mirror, she just glared at me and shook her head.  Her actions seemed to suggest that she thought I was delusional to believe I could squeeze my van in in front of her. But my idea wasn’t to fit into that too-small space, it was to fit into the space afforded me once she backed up.
As I inched and angled my van back and forth, back and forth into that spot, she watched me from the front seat of her vehicle unwilling, though perfectly able, to lend a hand. She seemed adamant about maintaining her protective parking bubble.  

Perhaps she thought I would eventually give up trying to squeeze my van into that space and would drive on to find another spot. But what Corvette Lady didn’t realize is that I am a vigilante of social justice. She didn’t know that there are few things in this world that make my blood boil more than people who believe they are somehow exempt from common courtesy. So, with my van jutting half-way out into the street, blocking the flow of traffic along the narrow artery where cars were still swarming near the sports complex, I exited my vehicle and approached the driver’s side of the Corvette.

The woman watched me approach, a look of annoyance on her face. Her window was already cracked open, so I leaned over and asked her if she would mind backing up a few feet. I admit that by this point I was quite frustrated and filled with disgust for this person who had watched me struggle, understood my need, knew that she was able to assist me, yet stubbornly refused to do so. So when I spoke to her my voice betrayed my perturbedness. Still she stared at me and just shook her head. 

I explained that she had ample space behind her in which to reposition her car.  That’s when she told me that she had been parked in that spot along the street for over two hours already and she was trying to conduct some work (she pointed to some papers on the passenger seat.) “OoooKaaay?” I said, not understanding what relevance the length of her stay played in her refusal to be courteous, “please back your car up.” 

“There are several spaces right there,” she said, pointing to the parking lot. I explained that those were handicap spots and again asked, although not quite as politely, if she would back up. She refused. 

“Look,” I said, genuinely agitated, “just because you have a shiny car doesn’t mean you’re any more precious than the rest of us,” I gestured to the mass of cars stacked up behind where my van was blocking the street. 

This is when she actually opened her car door and climbed out to confront me. With only her car door acting as a barrier between us, she stood flagging her arms in the air and yelling at me about how she was there first and how rude I was to demand she move her car.
I admit that what happened next was not the type of behavior that is representative of my faith in Christ: I raised my voice and squabbled back with her. I told her that it didn’t matter how long she’d been parked along the road, she doesn’t own the municipality and she should be considerate of other people and move her car.

I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have shot back at her. My tongue is often my greatest enemy, it gets me into trouble time and time again. This time was no exception. Corvette lady scolded me; “You know what, you can find yourself another spot.”

“Okay.” I said quite calmly. The kind of calm where you know the sh*t’s about to hit the fan. Then I turned and marched back to my van. It was then that Corvette lady realized her folly. She and I both knew I had no intention of finding another spot.  I would make my van fit into that space come hell or high water. 

Although I would have loved to ram her car for dramatic effect, I never would have actually done so (the last thing I need is a lawsuit and higher insurance premiums.) However, Corvette lady didn’t know that.  So at long last she finally turned on her ignition and backed her car up a few feet so that my van could glide nicely into the space in front. A small victory.

When I parked and locked my car, I walked behind hers and took a photo of her license plate (just in case she decided to retaliate and harm my vehicle in my absence). I then passed by her window and said to her, “See now, that wasn’t so difficult after all,” then I sauntered off to catch my son’s soccer game. 

Unfortunately, this was not the end of my encounter with Corvette Lady. Look for Part 2 of this blog post forthcoming.

Death Ain’t Worth Fussin’ Over

There are few things about this life I’ll miss when I’m dead and gone. I’ll miss my family and friends, of course, and perhaps a few gastronomical delicacies (namely artichoke pizza and baklava)…but little else. I definitely won’t miss my degenerating body and its many ailments. Nor will I miss this world and the depraved state it’s in ecologically, economically and societally. I won’t miss housecleaning, no sir! I won’t miss having to live within a budget. I won’t miss car repairs or lawn maintenance or taxes. I won’t miss swimsuit season nor the painstaking process of trying to find a pair of jeans I can tug over my generous helping of thigh meat. I absolutely will not miss cellulite. I won’t miss counting calories, counting the seconds or counting sheep. I might miss music, but not speed metal…or smooth jazz…or anything by Justin Beiber.

I can’t wait for the day when I no longer have to persevere through check-out lines, rush-hour traffic, and automated phone systems. I won’t miss Washington or Hollywood and the volcano of sh*t that spews out of both. I won’t miss mosquitoes. Lord knows I won’t miss menstruation. I won’t miss Saturday nights with no plans and nothing good on TV. I won’t miss squabbling with my children, haggling with a salesperson or defending myself against the scores of people who dole out injustice like it was Halloween candy. I will, however, miss being around to witness my kids and grandkids experience the fullness of their lives; but I certainly won’t miss the pain of seeing them hurt, or God forbid, pass on before me. I won’t miss 25-or-more grams of fiber per day. I won’t miss sports commentary. Heck, as much as I love her, I won’t even miss my own dog.

Nope, I’m pretty content to leave this life behind. And, seeing as how I am a hard-core, born-again Christian, I believe I‘ve got a first-class ticket on the express train to glory waiting for me at will-call. When I die and my spirit reaches the gates of that supernatural Disneyland, I don’t think I’ll look back on my life on earth and miss a thing. No ailments, no torment, no cellulite – what is there to miss? I doubt I’ll find anything about my previous life attractive or compelling enough to be homesick for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids like cRậziИesš! I am, without exaggeration, one breath away from a straight-jacket over my adoration of, allegiance to, and inextinguishable delight for my two amazing boys. Yet as vast as my love may be, I doubt I’ll have time to miss them in the human sense. I imagine that when I experience the Creator of the Universe, Lover of my Soul face to face, and when I am – in His presence – transformed into perfection, even the memory of my own children will seem like a vaguely familiar face at a class reunion…nostalgic yet trivial. I expect that they too will faintly recognize me once they come face to face with God Almighty, and I’m just fine with that.

And so I tell you: I’m not scared of death. The actual act of dying freaks me out a little – mainly because I hope it doesn’t hurt (I’m a bit of a pansy that way). But even if my suffering is long and unbearable, I know that it is momentary in light of eternity. I know that I will soon enough be taking a victory lap around the pearly gates wearing nothing but a firmly supporting sports bra and a thong to show off my cellulite-free angelic form. Hallelujah!