What started with my four year old, some lemons, and a story about raising money to buy solar cookers in Africa . . . turned into four years as the Captain of the Lemonade Stand Project for Big Sunday – an incredible volunteer organization in Los Angeles. During our first year, we worked with 75 volunteers, mostly children, running 20 lemonade stands across Los Angeles all raising money for local children’s charities.
Over the following years, our numbers kept growing. And by the 4th year, we had over 2000 volunteers manning 150 lemonade stands across the city during a span of 48 hours. Although we raised several hundred dollars that year, I found myself disappointed because the amount of money raised was disproportionate to the number of volunteer hours worked. The end result didn’t seem worth the huge amount of effort we all put into it. After all, wasn’t the money the main event? However, when I looked more closely, I realized it was never about the money at all.
The very act of giving was what mattered the most. I saw it on their faces – on the faces of the kids who volunteered and on the faces of those who stopped by for a 25 cent cup of lemonade. People stuffed our donation jars with coins, $1 dollar bills, $20 bills and whatever they had in their pockets. A car of strangers drove by, rolled down the window, and handed us more bottles of lemonade to sell – just because they wanted to help. Other kids asked if they could help by holding up signs and rounding up customers. And a child who bought a cup of lemonade returned to give us the $10 bill she found in the parking lot on the walk back to the car.
When you give, something inside of you changes. Every person has something to give – a sandwich, a smile or five minutes to throw a ball with a child. People want to give back. And there are so many in our community in need of goods, services or simply companionship. With The Giving Express, we provide the creative vehicle for both giving and receiving. We open up a space for people to contribute and for others to receive all that hope. With different Pop-Up Giving Events throughout the year, The Giving Express can provide haircuts for the homeless, tutoring for immigrant families, a safe space for neighborhood children to sit and read, diapers for babies in shelters . . . the list is truly endless.
Every day we are witness to countless acts of kindness and giving when we just take the time to notice. And when we harness the power of giving, that’s when we can change the world. We’ve got the lemons, now let’s go make some lemonade . . .