My middle kiddo, Lizzie, has had some trouble transitioning back to school.
“I miss summer,” she says to me almost daily.
My responses have varied, but have mostly been along the lines of, “I miss it, too, sweetheart. What can we do to make today feel more like summertime?”
We have gone for ice cream cones and drawn with chalk. We have invited friends over to run through the sprinkler. But yesterday, she wanted to have a sale. Not lemonade this time. Or brownies.
“Mom, I want to have an Art Stand,” she said.
“Okay,” I replied, and I followed her outside with a roll of tape. I was not entirely sure what she had in mind. But I watched as this six-year-old, my aspiring artist and budding entrepreneur, taped up her best pictures along our ramshackle front fence.
And then we waited.
“Art Sale!” she yelled as cars whizzed by. “Art Sale!” she called to the couple walking their dogs and the teenager delivering pizza. “Art Sale!” she chirped to the neighbor dragging a trashcan down the driveway. But nobody stopped.
We spent thirty minutes hawking pictures to the air, and I watched my daughter’s hope deflate like a balloon.
Her older sister noticed, too, and Katie came outside to purchase a painting made entirely of polka dots. “It’s confetti,” Lizzie told her.
“It’s awesome,” said Katie. “I will hang it in my room.”
Dad came home from the office in time to buy a colored pencil sketch of an alien spaceship. I grabbed my purse from the car and bought a magic marker rainbow.
But in the mean time, everyone in the real world drove right by. And when Lizzie had had enough, she went in the house to cry. Because ‘family doesn’t count as customers.’ Because it wasn’t summer anymore. And because nobody stopped at her Art Stand.
I do not know the personal stories of the fifty or so people who sailed blithely by our house on Friday evening. Maybe one was a doctor en route to emergency surgery. Perhaps someone else had a woman about to give birth in the car. Still another might have needed to go straight home after a brutal week at work. I can think of a hundred reasons not to stop at a child’s roadside stand.
When I look at friends’ Facebook pages and Pinterest Boards, I am a sucker for the inspirational messages, PowerPoint slides and e-cards with sayings like, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” Or, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I love the words we use to inspire one another to be good people. But yesterday, I felt like waving a motivational sign of my own, with slightly coarser language. “Don’t be a d-bag. Stop and buy my kid’s drawing of a horse.” What good are words if they don’t inspire us to do something better?
I went in the house to comfort Lizzie, and when she finally stopped crying, she agreed to come outside and clean up her sale. “We can try again another day,” I told her. She nodded and pulled the first picture down from the fence.
“Excuse me,” a voice said, and we both turned around. “Are you the artist?” Lizzie smiled shyly and nodded her head. “I was walking by when I saw these beautiful pictures. I just phoned my daughter and her friend. They love art. I know they would like to come to your sale, too.” This stranger perused my kid’s sketches, and moments later, two girls came around the corner carrying a piggy bank.
They inquired about the inspiration for the drawings, applauded Lizzie’s sense of color, line, and dexterity with crayons. They treated her like an artist. And between the three of them, they bought five pictures. Their names were Heather, Sophie, and Hannah, and in less than ten minutes, they restored my faith in all of humanity.
Today, Lizzie was talking about renting a booth at the upcoming town carnival, so she can sell pictures, “to raise money for kitty cats who don’t have any food.” I don’t know if she and I will be feeding these stray cats or merely donating the money to a shelter, but I find myself excited by the possibility of shouting, “Art Sale!” to carnival-goers and passers by. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, please stop over.
Of course, you don’t have to stop at our sale. It could be any makeshift stand by the side of the road. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want lemonade, a Rice Krispies treat, or your car washed. Stop anyway. Be the change you want to see in this world. Make a kid’s day.