What does the world need more of?
The world needs more free lemonade. It needs random acts of kindness, more costumes and meaningful conversation with strangers.
We brought it all to the desert outside of Moab, Utah.
My banana business partner Country Courtney joined me in a day of invention. Together we created The Mobile Free Lemonade Stand.
“Free lemonade!” I shouted from the back of the truck.
“Cheapest lemonade west of the Mississippi!” Country Courtney yelled.
There was a variety of reactions from the surprised strangers, my favorite being:
“No, thank you,” and quite simply: “No.”
Did something about us look untrustworthy? Was my yellow blazer intimidating? Could they tell we weren’t wearing underwear? What kind of person refuses free lemonade? Do we look like the kind of kids who have access to poison?
One skeptic asked, “Why is it free?”
Other people passed us without even noticing because they were looking down at their phones. Two giant bright bananas with free lemonade went unnoticed because nothing is more interesting than our cellular devices, right?
The world needs more presence. When we are present with what’s in front of us, we are open to opportunity. We need to participate with our surroundings more, instead of moving through them.
The first place we took our Mobile Free Lemonade Stand was an overlook off highway 313 with a view of the La Sals and Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area. We walked maybe two hundred feet away from the parking lot and watched, shocked at the number of cars that pulled into the lookout area, but how few people actually left their car. Some cars barely slowed down as they rolled the window down, snapped a photo, and left.
“You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thorn brush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe.”Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
The world needs more time without plans. In the age of cell phones we are able to obsessively calculate our days: it will take 55 minutes to drive to Trailhead A which Google say is 3.2 miles and recommends 3 hours and 25 minutes to complete. Then it was take us 55 minutes to get back to town where we can meet our reservation at 6pm for dinner. GoogleMaps says it will take 11 minutes to walk to the restaurant for dinner or 2 minutes to drive or 5 minutes to bike.
Our phones create an obsessive attachment to time.
The world needs more spontaneity.
We watched as people pointed at us from inside of their cars, the wheels slowed and we thought, Oh they’re stopping! only to watch the wheels pick up speed and disappear. It seemed as though there was no time to stop for distractions.
Other reactions were more rewarding:
An old couple in matching Hawaiin shirts and wide brimmed sun hats walked hand in hand from their car toward the overlook. When they looked up and saw us, they stopped about twenty feet away. In unison they began singing,
“What the world needs now is love sweet love!”
They ended the verse with their arms above their heads and we cheered for them. They walked away without talking to us and without any lemonade.
A young couple in their twenties approached us laughing.
“What are you doing?” the woman with curly hair and a t-shirt on asked.
“Giving out free lemonade!” I said.
“Bring your own cup, or use our communal cup,” Courtney said, holding up a cup with a lemon on it.
The tall man in a baseball cap laughed and shook his head. “We’ll get our own cups,” he said, going back to his truck to bring out two plastic cups.
“But really, why are you doing this?” the woman asked again.
Is it so hard to believe we had no agenda other than to make people’s day a bit brighter? Dare I say…a bit more bananas?
We did have another motive.
“Well, we’re here to spread some kindness. And we’re also here to ask you: what do you think the world needs more of?” I asked.
“More banana suits,” the woman said, giggling.
“More communal cups,” the man said, laughing and shaking his head. Then asked, “Are those your Virginia plates?”
“Yeah!” Courtney said. “I just drove out from Richmond.”
“Oh no way,” he smiled. “I just moved from Richmond to Salt Lake. I grew up in Northern Virginia.”
“Small world,” Courtney said.
“The world needs more people from Richmond…uh I guess,” he said, then added, “Thanks for the lemonade. This is definitely the most interesting thing that’s happened so far.”
We moved our Mobile Free Lemonade Stand to a dusty parking lot surrounded by Navajo Sandstone.
An old man in skin tight biking pants and shirt rode by and stopped. He chugged half of his water bottle and said, “Add it to my water. Thanks bananas,” and rode away.
A woman in shorts and a tank top on her mountain bike screamed, “Free lemonade?!” with her mouth wide open. She refused the communal cup for some odd reason. She went to her car in the parking lot and came back with two dogs, her partner and an empty beer can.
“Free lemonade!” the man said, beaming. “This is amazing. It’s so hot out,” he said.
“Sure is,” Country Courtney said. “We’re also here to ask you what you think the world needs more of.”
“The world needs more random acts of kindness like this,” the woman said. “I haven’t had pink lemonade in decades.” She didn’t look much older than thirty.
“I have a playful answer, is that okay?” the man asked.
“I may be wearing a blazer,” I said. “But I’m also wearing a banana head. We do accept playful answers.”
He laughed and said, “Joy! Lemonade brings me joy.”
“Hey what are you bananas doing?” A man in his sixties with a button up sun hoodie asked, walking over. The biker couple thanked us and left with their dogs and lemonade.
“Free lemonade!” Courtney said.
“No way, seriously? That’s hilarious. You’re just out here giving out lemonade? I’ve never seen that before. I’ll take some lemonade.”
“You can use our communal cup or use your own cup,” I said.
“The communal cup will work,” he said. We laughed and filled up the cup with a lemon on it. “I don’t have any serious diseases,” he laughed.
“Oh only non-serious diseases?” I asked.
“That’s right,” he said, sipping the sweet pink lemonade.
We asked him what the world needs more of and he said immediately, “Happiness. First thing that comes to mind. I try to put a smile on people’s face every day. You know, like what you guys are doing. I just made a whole family laugh over there.”
“Oh yeah I saw you taking their picture,” Country Courtney said.
“Yeah, I told them to make a funny face and they all went from staring to smiling. It was nice, you know. I just like to talk to people. My wife, oh I probably owe her fifteen years of my life that she stands around waiting while I talk to people. She’s probably waiting right now. Anyway, I ask you two the same question,” Happy Man said.
“I think the world needs more observation of nature. Whether that’s a tree growing out of the sidewalk in a city or a bug crawling on your leg or water moving over rocks. We need to stop and observe, I think it will lead to more happiness,” I said.
Happy Man nodded vigorously and said, “Yes! The sooner people realize we are a part of this earth,” he bent down and picked up the red sand and continued, “We are dirt, you know? Rocks talk, you gotta be a good listener to hear them but hey you gotta stop and observe to listen. We are all earth, we’re not aliens, well maybe we are, who knows?” he laughed. “I stopped asking myself the big questions a long time ago Who am I and what’s the point of life? I just don’t care, I don’t need to know. I need to play and just be here on earth. I’m young at heart. Ah, here’s my wife! Honey, free lemonade!” he said to a tall and tough woman approaching with hair in a ponytail down to her waist. Her skin was sun kissed and her body was nothing but muscle and smiles.
She smiled at us and refused the lemonade from the communal cup.
“They asked me what the world needs more of,” Happy Man said to his wife.
“Oh, kindness,” Muscle Woman said smiling toward us.
“Oh yeah!” Happy Man said, hugging and kissing her while she giggled.
“How can the world have more kindness?” Courtney asked.
“People need to listen to each other, turn around and look, be observant,” Muscle Woman said slowly.
“That’s what she said too, awareness,” Happy Man said pointing to me. “Well, she didn’t exactly use the word awareness, but kind of,” he shrugged.
Another woman, younger with blonde hair rode up on her mountain bike and asked, “Does anyone have a shock pump?”
“We do,” Muscle Woman said.
Happy Man said, “I’ll help you,” and they disappeared to his truck. They lived by their words of offering happiness and kindness to the world. They were not walled off inside their truck or sucked into their phone bubble, they were alert participants of the parking lot. They were present and open to what the day might have to show them.
And for that, they got free lemonade.
The idea of Empathic Adventuring is to do more than see a landscape and move on. The hope is travel with purpose by connecting deeply with the land and the people who wander it. To adventure with empathy is to look, listen and give back.
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