Sunday, May 1, 2011 was National Lemonade Day, an event designed to teach entrepreneurial skills to children. A few weeks before, Morgan, age 6, wrote us as her grandparents to ask us to invest $12.00 in her lemonade business. With the aid of her father, she was going to set up a lemonade stand and sell lemonade on that date.
Her grandfather sent the check immediately.
A couple of weeks before the big day, we drove to her home and Morgan showed us the colored step-by-step workbook that the local entrepreneurial association had put together to guide participants through the business of selling lemonade. It was impressive: it included a week by week plan, a resource list, and a budget outline with places for the kids to fill in their own information — and, of course, color the illustrations.
A week later, Morgan participated in her city’s best tasting lemonade contest, demonstrating her mango lemonade recipe. According to her mother, “she stood behind her table for 1 hour and answered questions from several judges. It was an awesome sight to see. Apparently, she had the 4th highest score.”
Then came Lemonade Day itself. Her father had received special permission for her to sell her lemonade in a local park, so her grandfather and I drove up the day before to help set up. The event itself was fun. We all baked in the sun while the young entrepreneur sold her wares, collected her money, and thanked her customers. She made a respectable amount in the four or so hours we were there and came home happy and tired.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. We had visited the family for our grandson’s (Morgan’s brother) birthday and were getting ready to return home to Houston when her parents announced that Morgan was going to repay us, her investors, the $12 plus interest.
My body froze. I couldn’t even tell you how much money I have spent on my grandchildren over the last six years. Repay us $12.00???
I pulled her father aside, “Is it really important to you that she repay us the $12.00?” I asked, knowing his answer.
“Definitely yes,” he responded.
I relayed his answer to her grandfather so he would be prepared. Taking $12.00 plus interest from a six-year-old was going to be harder than I had anticipated.
Her father, mother, and Morgan were in the kitchen. Her grandfather and I stayed in the dining room, within earshot but out of eye range. I heard her father remind Morgan that she had borrowed the money from us as her investors and explain it was now time to repay us. I listened as he counted out the money with her, “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12. That’s $12.00. Now add $2.00 for interest and that’s $14.00.”
“But Daddy, why do I have to give them some of the money that I made?”
My eyes filled with tears.
Hurdle 1: Staying in integrity often has costs that we aren’t prepared to pay.
Her father patiently explained everything again. She had borrowed the money to set up her very successful lemonade stand and it was now time to repay us. She had promised to repay us and it was time to live up to her promise.
She asked more questions which I couldn’t hear—I was so nervous I started blanking out. Then I heard him patiently explain, “This is a twenty-dollar bill. You will keep these. It’s the same as twenty of these one dollar bills. Now this is a five dollar bill. You will keep this also. This is five of these one dollar bills. You are giving them 14 one-dollar bills but you are keeping these twenty dollar bills, this five dollar bill, and all of these one dollar bills. You have all this left.”
Suddenly I understood. To someone fresh out of kindergarten, fourteen one dollar bills looked like a lot more money than two or three twenty dollar bills, a five dollar bill, and some singles.
Hurdle 2: Sometimes the senses can deceive. Staying in integrity may feel like we are giving up more than we really are.
Perhaps, one should start with “integrity”.
Morgan’s Lemonade Project: What’s Integrity Got to Do with It?
After more discussion, she was ready. They called us into the kitchen and there was Morgan standing erect beside her father with a proud and shy smile. She started to hand over the money, then suddenly stopped and ran into the pantry, pulling out a small, transparent zip lock bag. Placing the money in it, she said, “Here. Now you can still see it,” and handed it over to her grandfather.
With further prompting from her father, she graciously added, “Thank you for investing in my business.”
I was amazed at the transformation. The little girl I had been playing with all weekend was now a poised, courageous young lady who was proud of her accomplishment and bathing in the deep respect of her parents and her grandparents. We all stood around for a few minutes just beaming at her and each other.
What led to her transformation? She and her father engaged in a textbook example of how to build more effective, mutually beneficial relationships (Reframing Change, Chapter 4). I wish I could have videotaped their interaction.
She had complete trust in her father and he had worked her through the integrity process using the skills of listening, openness, and inquiry. She had had a lot of questions, but because of the quality of his mentorship, she never doubted his positive intentions nor his wisdom. Whether she could articulate it or not, she knew that repaying us was part of her personal growth and betterment, and so she went with that and we reciprocated with a ton of appreciation and supportive feedback on her performance.
Her reward: a stronger sense of self – and her profits on the lemonade project.
The lesson: When we finally do act with integrity, we may gain more than we give.
Update, April 19, 2011
Lemonade Day keeps on giving. See Morgan’s Lemonade Project, Year Two: Self-Regulation as a successful character trait
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