Posted: Friday, February 19th, 2010
A few weeks ago Speed and Whiz put on a bake sale with some of their pals to help raise money for Haiti.
It goes without saying that I felt really proud of them for the idea. I know the people of Haiti are still desperate for support and I know it’s important for kids to contribute to their (global) community.
So I felt proud. But I also felt lots of other things. I felt concerned that focusing so much attention on the horrific events in Haiti would be too big of a burden on their little hearts and minds. I felt worried that they wouldn’t make much money and they’d get discouraged about their ability, as little people, to make a difference in the big world. And (and this is the one I’m least proud of) I felt overwhelmed – maybe even a tiny bit annoyed – at the idea of managing the logistics of one more thing in an already jam-packed life.
But I cast aside concerned, worried, and annoyed and let proud lead the way. In cahoots with a couple of other moms and a small gaggle of kids we stormed the corner of Broadway and Winslow on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Armed with some handmade signs, a few platters of homemade baked goods, my grandmother’s coffee urn filled with fresh squeezed lemonade, a card table, and boundless enthusiasm, we set up shop.
After 15 minutes we had earned…Nothing. We’d missed the down town lunch crowd yet were too early for the early diners and movie theater goers. There was almost no one on the streets of our usually bustling down town. We moms started to sputter and fret – plotting to move the sale to another location, or another day. Meanwhile, the kids doubled down on their sales strategy…instead of standing on the corner politely waiting for people to come to their bake sale, they started running up and down the side walk in groups yelling “Heeeeelllllllp Haaaaiti” at the top of their lungs.
The moms were mortified but apparently the universe was inspired. A handful of people came. And then more. And then many more. A pack of students came. Some police men came. A disabled Vietnam vet came. Nearly everyone from Education.com came. Guys in suits and guys in sweat suits came. Moms pushing strollers and grandmas pushing canes came. Some kids who had moved here from Haiti came. In trickles and in streams people came. After about 3 hours our money box was full, our treat plates were empty, and $1,600 dollars were on their way to Haiti (thanks to the donations we received and a dollar-for-dollar corporate match).
I focus a lot of time and energy on educating my kids. And I know they learned a lot that day. But I think I came away with lessons, or at least reminders, that were at least as valuable as what they learned. And here they are:
- Miracles happen - In our old house we had lemon trees and I always had more lemons than I knew what to do with. Our new house doesn’t have a lemon tree and I was bummed at the options of either spending a fortune on store bought lemons or selling lemonade made from powder. The day before the sale, a box of lemons arrived from some dear friends in Arizona who have an over productive lemon tree. I had not asked for the lemons or mentioned the lemonade sale…hadn’t talked to them in months as a matter of fact. Life gave us miraculous lemons…and we made lemonade.
- Kids are bigger than they look – A homeless couple walked by the bake sale and when the kids asked if they’d like to buy something the woman said “I’m sorry. I can’t”.
I said “that’s ok!”
One of the girls in our group, without missing a beat, said “have whatever you’d like” and the kids immediately declared a new policy that they’d give treats to anyone who couldn’t buy them.
- There’s family where you least expect it – The first people who showed up at the sale were some of my friends from Education.com. They continued to show up in a steady stream throughout the afternoon. Interns who couldn’t afford the money and execs who couldn’t afford the time showed up. They gave money and they gave smiles and they gave encouragement. My closest blood relatives live thousands of miles away, but that day I realized that family can happen anywhere.
- People are good – Times are tough right now. Really tough. But you’d never have known that if you’d visited us on the corner of Winslow and Broadway that day. We invited people to give whatever they could in exchange for our baked goods and lemonade. We were expecting quarters – maybe dollars. We got some of those. But mostly we got fives, tens, and twenties…lots of them. People gave more than they needed to give to kids who were planning to give the money to people they’d never know who live 2,938 miles away. That’s pretty good.
It turns out I was right. Hosting a bake sale is really annoying. By the end I was horse and exhausted, and I’d somehow managed to throw my house keys away during all the clean up commotion. But I was also moved, and inspired, and humbled, and hopeful, and most of all, really, really proud.
If you’d like to find ways to help your family experience the joy of serving your community, please check out our Volunteering and Citizenship information center. It’s packed with information about how (and why) your family can help.