Tuesday, April 19, 2005

We're not in the ghetto anymore, Toto

I live in the same city I was born in. I love MyCity, I do. I live in a great neighborhood. But as with every city, there are some sections you just wouldn't want to be caught in. After dark. Alone.

Because of those "bad" sections, most people I've met who aren't from MyCity are afraid of it. When I used to work up north about 30 miles, they acted like I lived in the Bronx or something. I invited someone to my house one time and I think they actually shivered.


The city I work in now is about 20 minutes from my home. In between the two cities are towns that may as well be islands in the middle of the ocean. It's amazing what a difference a 10 minute drive can make. I can leave a poor, run-down, urban neighborhood and in no time be in a wealthy suburb with lush, green lawns leading to lavish homes.

Yesterday on my way home from work, I passed one of these homes to see a little girl selling Kool-Aid. I had to do a double take. She wasn't sitting on a milk crate or selling the cups off of a card table. She had her very own store bought Kool-Aid stand, complete with Mr. Kool-Aid plastered across the front. She probably was selling Evian-quality beverages, too.

I couldn't help but think that buying your child a pre-fab set defeats the whole purpose of a lemonade stand. Isn't it about mixing the lemonade yourself? Drawing the sign? Doing it all by yourself? It's kind of like the childhood version of opening a franchise.

Maybe it's just me. I grew up in a middle-class family, definitely not as wealthy as this little girl's parents. When I was a kid, my sister and I set up a lemonade stand one day. We were bored and wanted to try to earn some money. We dragged a TV tray out to the corner of our street and set up shop. Of course, we didn't have any kool-aid or lemonade in the house, so we put out cups of water. And since we couldn't really charge for water, we cut up leftover padding from our recently installed carpet and tried to sell them as sponges.

(I know, I know. We were strange children. But at least we were imaginative.)

Needless to say, we didn't make any money that day. But we had fun. I wonder how much fun this little girl had. She looked bored to death. There was nothing there for her to do, other than wait for a Lexus to pull up and hand her the money.

Who knows. She probably had a great time, and I'm overanalyzing. Again. I can only guess what I saw in the 30 seconds it took me to drive away from her house and closer to MyCity. And to me, it looked like all the fun had been taken out of the experience.

I'm torn between the desire to move to towns like that and the fear that my kids will become spoiled brats who expect everything because they've always had it. If we ever do move, I'll just have to make sure to bring them to MyCity to show them that it isn't a scary place after all. That there are all different kinds of people in the world, and the life they have isn't necessarily the way everyone else lives. I want them to know that they are fortunate, and teach them to appreciate what they have.

In any case, I can guarantee you - my kids will be making their own Kool-Aid stands, if they decide to go into business someday. But I'll still help them draw the signs.

No comments: