From Our Early Files:
26 Feb 2014
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
Seven-year-old Lucy Mixson had never seen a homeless person. Until she met Charlie.
Charlie was a little rough around the edges. He wore a tattered sweater, stained jeans, and an oversize baseball cap that was tilted slightly to one side. Yet, despite his well-worn external features, Charlie sported a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts. He radiated a joy that seemed displaced given his current predicament.
The chance encounter between Lucy and Charlie one sunny Saturday morning didn’t last long. Lucy was running errands with her mom when she pointed to Charlie sitting on a bench and asked, “Mommy, who’s that?” Lucy’s mom politely looked at Charlie and said, “He is a homeless man.”
A puzzled look furrowed Lucy’s small face, “What’s homeless?”
A little embarrassed, Lucy’s mom suddenly realized she had never explained homelessness to her daughter. It wasn’t so much a matter of sheltering, as it was simply a subject that had not come up.
Trying to keep her explanation simple she shared, “There are men, women, and even children who don’t have homes. So they do the best they can to find some place to sleep. They sleep with their coats over them and make do with what they have. Some even stay in special shelters called rescue missions.”
Lucy reflected on those words for a moment. Then she said, “Can we go by and say hello to the homeless man on the bench?” Though admittedly a bit uncomfortable, her mom agreed and insisted they only stop for a moment.
Walking hand-in-hand, Lucy and mom strode steadily toward the man with the tattered sweater, stained jeans, and oversize baseball cap tilted slightly to one side. As they arrived within several feet of where he was sitting, young Lucy wasted no time in introducing herself, “Hello, my name is Lucy. My Mom says you are homeless. How can I help?”
Lucy’s mom was horrified. Charlie, however, was not. Extending his hand and dialing up his smile, he simply replied “Ms. Lucy, my name is Charlie and you have already helped. Just you coming by to say hello has brightened my day. You see, not many people take a moment to notice I’m here. Even fewer go out of their way to see how they can help. You are special indeed.”
“…Just you coming by to say hello has brightened my day.”
Lucy’s face noticeably brightened at his words as Lucy’s mom introduced herself and asked if there was anything they could do to assist. “Thank you,” Charlie said, “but I’m okay for the moment. You have already done more than enough. It is nice to meet you both.”
And with that, they said their goodbyes and were on their way. But the story doesn’t end there.
You see, Lucy was intent to help those who, unlike her, didn’t have a home. So she began hitting up her family members for cash. “I’m raising money for the homeless!” she would say cheerfully. She even hit up her grandmother, who lived in a nursing home.
A couple days after meeting Charlie, Lucy rolled into the kitchen where her mom was fixing lunch. “Can I have a lemonade stand?” the seven-year-old girl asked.
Within minutes, armed with a pitcher of Crystal Light lemonade, a sleeve of paper cups, and a homemade sign, Lucy was in business.
Flagging down people driving through her neighborhood, Lucy shared how she was raising money for the homeless. She was charging twenty-five cents a cup, but her customers always threw in a little extra since it was for a good cause.
By the end of the day, her impromptu enterprise had added a few dollars to her fund. But she wasn’t done. The next day, she enlisted a couple of her friends to join her in going door-to-door in her neighborhood to again, raise money for the homeless.
Lucy’s mom watched what was occurring with a bit of amazement. After all, no one had suggested she do any fundraising. She did it all on her own. Setting a grown-up sized example in the process.
Between her family, neighbors and lemonade stand, Lucy raised almost ninety dollars. At first, she wanted to take the whole sum and deliver it to Charlie or another homeless person she found sitting on a bench, but her mom suggested she donate the money to a rescue mission. This way, they could help many people.
“…leadership isn’t something you wait to be thrust upon you. It’s something you activate within yourself…”
Lucy liked the idea, and she and her mom decided to visit the local mission at the end of the week.
The day before the trip, the telephone rang at the Mixson home. It was Miss Maiers, Lucy’s second-grade teacher, “I just wanted to let you know that Lucy has written a letter to her classmates saying she is going to the rescue mission tomorrow. If the other kids have any money or clothes they want to donate, she’ll be happy to take it when she goes.”
Once again, Lucy’s mom was astonished. She had thought her daughter’s fund-raising drive was done. But then, without fanfare, Lucy kept on going. The morning of the mission trip, some of her classmates brought clothes and a few brought money. Miss Maiers even broke a twenty-dollar bill into singles and let every student contribute a dollar.
No one anticipated the chain reaction caused by Lucy’s initiative. Her small acts of determined kindness were like stones in a pond, the ripples spreading out to family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and even her teacher. By the day of her trip to the mission, Lucy had raised almost $130 in coins and cash. More importantly, she had taught everyone that leadership isn’t something you wait to be thrust upon you. It’s something you activate within yourself–seizing the initiative and adding value to your surroundings one selfless act at a time.
Lemonade Lessons to be Learned
We can all learn from Lucy’s positive example by applying her brand of leadership to our surroundings. Let’s get started:
– Take time to meet someone new. Most people have a habit of stagnating in a small circle of friends; but doing so limits our ability to grow. Do as Lucy did and step out of your comfort zone. Get out there and meet new people. You’ll be surprised at the lessons that each person can teach you and the new opportunities they will infuse into your life.
– Smile. A smile is the fastest way to set positive change into motion. It can turn the most awkward of moments into an opportunity to ease circumstances for those around you. The simple act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you’re happy. When you’re happy, you increase the likelihood of that same sentiment spreading to those around you.
– Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect. No boundary or class can dictate or take away that right. Make it a habit to treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect that you would give your grandparents, regardless if someone is a self-made millionaire or a homeless veteran. People will notice.
– Be ready to perform one selfless act every day. In life, you get out what you put in. When you make it a priority to create a positive impact in someone else’s life, you enrich your own in the process. Choose to do something today that’s greater than you. I promise you’ll never regret it.
How could we better the world if each of us seized even one opportunity to emulate seven-year-old Lucy? What if we chose to act when we saw an opportunity to make the world a little better than we first found it?
I don’t know about you, but I’m confident it would be a brighter, kinder world indeed.
Lemonade stand optional.