07/03/2012 02:09 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT

What My Son Taught Me About Money


My son and I decided we would set up a for-profit Lemonade stand on Canada Day.

We surfed the internet and came upon an instructional YouTube video on the secrets of creating this very thirst quenching summer drink.

My boy's beautiful little hands squeezed and twisted the lemons extracting the juice we would sell for 50 cents a cup. After boiling water and sugar, pouring the lemon concentrate into the pot along with some cold water and ice-cubes, and having Booby do a taste-test (at which time her mouth turned down all sour-like; so we added more sugar) our product was ready.

We created a sign to affix to a tree stating: A Lemonade Stand with a Smile, and prepared a melange of nuts and raisins to give away for free.

One of the key things required for our stand, I told my precious child, was a box of his money for change. I explained that if someone gave us a five dollar bill we would dive into the box and fish out $4.50 and return it to them. It was then the struggle began.

My son asked me why we would give people our money. I tried to understand his perspective and gave another example of giving change, drawing upon our experiences at No Frills with the cashier. As much as I presented the fundamentals of SK Economics (senior kindergarten) my son couldn't adjust to the idea that we would give away pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies that he loved so much.

A week prior, we had counted all of his change on the floor of his lime green and sky blue room and discovered that he had over $200. One of the coins dated back to 1943. In my son's rationally magic mind the coins were his, and giving them away to a passerby was tantamount to tossing a Backyardigan doll over the balcony. Why would we do that?

I stretched my Daddy-explanation muscles as taut as they would go, in an attempt to convince my son there was no other way to operate a profitable lemonade stand. But then it occurred to me that the idea of entrepreneurialism was exciting me, not him. My son is a collector and like many children, given the chance, he would gather and fill up our entire condo with tennis balls, because they are his favourite balls. He wouldn't sell them.

This refreshing concept became clearer later on in the day when he asked me if we might somehow find a million green, yellow and orange tennis balls by the side of the road, to keep and play with. I tried to temper his dream a tad and added that his idea was fantastic because we could open a tennis stand and sell a bunch of them to other tennis ball lovers. Once again, he looked at me with a puzzled and quizzical face and said, "Daddy, why would we sell the tennis balls. I love them so much?"

So there it was. On Canada Day 2012, something stunning occurred on a quiet street in North York.

My little collector and I gave away the lemonade, for free!

Every time a person walked by our wagon, instead of requesting the vast sum of 50 cents for the once to sour drink, we wished them "Happy Canada Day" and happily handed the individual lemonade we made from scratch. And it worked. Most of the passersby accepted the offer. The anxious woman walking her Shelties smiled widely after sipping our lemon libation and nodded in appreciation.

The young Mexican man, going off to work on our national holiday, said "muchas gracias" and "mmmm," followed by a "Happy Canada Day" acknowledgment. The mid-aged Pilipino woman with artistically painted toenails handed a cup to her elderly Russian, Latin professor friend in a wheelchair, while both of them congratulated us on our spirit and Canadian goodwill.

We received compliments on how "real" the lemonade tasted and how fortunate we are to live in a country like Canada, where free lemonade is still accepted from people we don't know.

Canada Day 2012 was special to my son and me because we offered a creation of our own to our fellow Canadians, with a price tag of joy and unity. By taking the money out of the equation a whole new world opened up to us, one in which sharing and lemons were the main ingredient, and the outcome, a stronger sense of brotherhood and sisterhood between us and our neighbors.

There is something to be said about being a collector of money, rather than a merchant banker. My son taught me that, or perhaps he reminded me of it that on Canada Day 2012, a most memorable and thirst quenching day.

(Please let me know please, if you have a million tennis balls to spare. Thanks.)