Saturday, June 18, 2011

Service in the Check-out Line

We are moving, just half a mile away but it entails every bit as much work as if we were relocating to Alaska. Gather boxes from every place I can think of between work and home, agree to disagree with my husband about furniture placement with what stays and what goes, try to get the kids to understand this move is for real and if they don't pack it doesn't go. In the middle of it all, I'm starting a new summer school job, Bob's son Cameron graduated from high school and looking for something to do, three teenagers are either in camp or leaving for camp this week. Oh, and it's Father's Day tomorrow.

I made a quick escape this afternoon to first get some gifts at Nordstrom Rack, and then some groceries for Father's Day breakfast-in-bed, and evening barbecue. The stereo speakers were blaring at The Rack and I tried to stay focused. The check-out line was deep and to be expected for a pre-holiday when all the women seemed to be picking out even more from the ladie's department than the men's. One teenager called her mom from her cell phone, "Mom, I just don't care enough about these things to wait in this line--it's pretty frustrating." I think she decided to come back another day. Another woman kept inching into my space in the queue. I tried to give her a friendly look as a patient reminder of personal space; it worked I think but I don't know how friendly it really was.

As my turn approached at the front of the line, a delicate Asian woman dressed in a plum silk suit walked right past me and stood next to a cashier. I was sure she wanted to put something on hold, but at The Rack you have to wait in line for that, too--at least I always do. With the loud music pounding and the impending stress of this week's move on my mind, I nearly snapped something like, "Excuse me, but we all have to wait in line." But lately I've given way to pushy people, since we are all fighting a hard battle and sometimes we should let the other guy (or girl) get ahead. As the next cashier flagged me over to her booth I quietly walked past the impatient woman to see that it was my soon-to-be ex next-door neighbor! Boy, was I relieved that had kept my cool...

The next stop was Trader Joe's, and again the pre-Father's Day lines were discouraging. I often seem to choose the slowest line, but this store and Costco are really good about opening up extra check stands. When an additional checker came along and invited the next customer, it was finally my turn. But a woman in the next lane complained that it should be her turn. Ugh, I didn't really feel like being sweet about this one. The checker must have read my mood, and she changed the tone by making pleasant conversation with about my weekend, the move, the kids, and dinner tonight. A bagger about my age joined and made jokes about their "masters degrees" in bagging and checking efficiency. We all laughed and I was thankful for people who can turn my frustration with checkout lines into a light moment. Their act of service required so little effort, I'm sure they won't remember how they affected this pre-Father's Day shopping experience. As soon as I wheeled away, I heard the same friendly conversation with the next customer. Service is just part of their demeanor. This time, I picked the perfect line to brighten my day, and it was worth the wait.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lemonade for a Cause

A couple of summers ago, I drove to my niece's Phoenix wedding by way of Southern California. It had been a hectic school year and I needed some time to myself. Along the way I was able to visit my best buddy Sally in Carlsbad, CA. She loaned me an extra bike one morning and we enjoyed a leisurely ride alo
ng the coast. Of course, I'm workin' even when I'm not and fundraisers always pique my interest. As we rode through the neighborhoods around Del Mar I was impressed with the cutest bunch of kids who had set up a lemonade stand for charity. It was a bit more decorative than the one our kids had recently, and with a fundraising twist. Instead of working to earn money for themselves, they were raising money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I didn't have my camera at the time--I've since learned to take it everywhere--so this photo of our little lemonade stand might inspire.

To take the concept further, one brave little eight-year-old-cancer patient enlisted the help her neighbors by starting a lemonade stand to fund treatment for other children with the same disease she had. Alexandra Scott did not survive cancer, but her first neighborhood lemonade stand earned $2,000 "to fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time." By the time she passed away, Alex's Lemonade Stand had raised over one million dollars to fund cancer research.

Now, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation raises money every year, by hosting community-wide events all across the country. Through her unselfish effort, one young girl made a difference for other children in a very simple way. As I work this month to provide community service resources for 210 summer school students to fulfill a requirement for the Living Skills course in our school district, I think about the creative ideas of unassuming young children who go out and make a batch of lemonade, with cookies or banana bread, and let go of "what the neighbors will think." They ask for a little support from mom and dad to get poster-board for a sign, and off they go--right out of their comfort zones to the side of the road peddling an often too-sour or too-watery lemonade. But the rest of us don't care about the actual product, we want to support their work ethic and "the cause."

So, any of you students or other young people who are bored and think you can't do much to make a difference without signing up for a major event, give it a try. Put yourself out there with a sign and some tasty lemonade. Throw in homemade cookies, or a baked treat unique to your culture. Your neighbors will be inspired, and you can provide funding for the cause of your choice. Describe to your customers the efforts of the charity you are supporting, and at the end of your sale take the proceeds directly to the post office to request a money order payable to that charity. You can even make a big "thank you" sign and post it where your sale took place, reminding them of when your next sale will be held. With one successful sale, you may find that little Alex's idea was worth repeating.

Tasty Lemonade Trick:
Make powdered lemonade, and add the juice of some fresh lemons to taste. Slice a few for effect and leave in the pitcher.

Other Sales to Try:
My girls made loads of cashing selling Italian sodas when they were young. Mix 1/4 c. Torino syrup, 1/4 c. cream (keep cold!), and 6 oz. seltzer water for a refreshing roadside treat.

One caveat: This should only be done with parent approval and supervision, in the daylight hours and in a safe area or neighborhood.

Alex's Lemonade Stand is now a national organization sponsoring events in mid-June to end childhood cancer: