It was a beautiful and warm day, perfect for long walks and meeting new people. I treaded carefully past the “No Solicitor” signs and came upon a business that flashed me back to my teen years. It was a detailing shop, which was all the rage back in my theater days, but are almost impossible to find today—well, at least quality shops.
The door was locked, so I moved to the next storefront to peddle my marketing pieces. But before I could open the door a little boy ran up to me and said, “We’re here. This is my shop.”
I must have had a perplexed look on my face because the six year old pointed to the door of the detailing shop.
“Your shop?” I questioned.
The boy’s mother came up from behind him holding up a key. She wiped her hair away from her face to bring some semblance of order to her frazzled look. She worked hard to keep her family moving in the right direction.
“I’m sorry we’re late, we had to take care of some family matters,” she said.
The husband walked up with a baby bucket seat in one hand and reached his empty hand of welcome toward me.
“Please come in,” he said. “My son’s talking about his mini-business, just inside.”
“Okay,” I said as I followed everyone inside.
The front office looked more like a playroom than a waiting room for customers. The little boy grabbed nachos from his mother’s hand and sat down in front of the TV next to the curtain drawn display windows.
“You’ll have to excuse the mess,” the mom said. “This is a mom and pop shop and we don’t have anywhere else to take our kids.”
“No problem,” I said with a smile. “There’s nothing wrong with having a family business.”
The dad quickly interjected, ”It’s more like a nursery in here, but it gives our son more family time and we can keep an eye on the little one.”
“I used to have my son creating animations for my business back when he was in grade school,” I added. “Now he manages computer teams, speaks at conferences and makes the big bucks.”
“My son has become somewhat of an entrepreneur in his own right,” the father said. “This is his desk where he sells candy.”
The father pointed to a deep, black walnut desk with piles of boxed candy, cartoon business cards and handwritten receipts.
“He sells candy to help him understand the value of money,” said the proud dad. “He’s made $300 just this week and he’s going to give it all away to help others.”
“Wow, that sounds amazing,” I said. “Who is he helping?”
“We don’t know. He’s just selling right now.” The father paused, glanced out the door at a shop across the street. “Most of what he’s sold has been to a group of guys that work across the street. They come over here every day to buy his candy. They’re really great guys, and customers too.”
“They sound nice, to be able to help your son daily,” I said. “But, how exactly is your son learning the value of money?”
“Well, he’s giving it all away.”
“When I attempted to teach my kids the value of money, I had them take 10% out for charity, 10% out for savings, 5% out for vacation spending money, and so on,” I said. “I wanted them to learn how to manage money and learn of its value in the process.”
“No, he’s going to give it all away,” the father insisted.
“I’m sure there will be a lesson in the adventure for him.”
I turned to the little boy and asked, “Who do you plan on helping with the money you’ve raised?”
The little boy kept his eyes focused on the TV and shrugged his shoulders.
“Pay attention to the man,” demanded the father.
The little boy turned to me and said, “I don’t know.”
The mother chimed in, “He said he’d like to help the kids at a children’s hospital.”
“That would certainly be admirable,” I said.
“He wanted to give all the kids teddy bears, but then changed his mind,” said the father.
“I’m sure that whatever he does, it will be a blessing to the recipient.”
“Get over here,” said the father as he pointed his son to the desk.
The little boy ran around me and stood at his desk. He moved his hand across the candy like Vanna White revealing the Wheel of Fortune game board.
“It’s too bad I’m not a candy eater,” I said. “But it all looks good and the kids you help will certainly appreciate…”
Before I finished my sentence the boy ran back to the TV and flopped into his chair.
I’ve been know to purchase from kid’s sales stands and tables over the years. Sometimes I accepted the product and other times I pay for it and asked the seller to gift it to their next customer or someone in need. But, this candy table was different.
There was no purpose or intent behind the little boy’s candy sales that made it worth my support. Nor was I persuaded to think he was learning from the activity. And, aside from the generous men that worked across the street, I wasn’t convinced the kid even knew how to ask for the sale without his dad’s prompting.
I love to reach into my pocket and help young people who work hard for a cause, but when the moment is void of purpose, it feels pretentious and phony. I don’t like to support people that don’t have their heart in the matter. Show me a passionate person filled with specific intent and I’ll try to support them beyond what I should.
I walked out of the office wondering if I was the first person to withhold support from the father’s educational moment. After all, the cause appeared noble and the kid was cute. But when I turned back and saw the kid’s eyes still glued to the TV, I walked out of the building knowing that my money was going to be held for the next heartfelt project that’ll make a difference in the lives of real people.