People ask me why I love Mustang so, why its people are so inspirational to me – and I can answer that with a little story, a simple tale about a sweet family, a bunch of cool guys and how the smallest of kindnesses can cast a light far beyond what anyone ever expected.
It started off with a little boy and a lemonade stand. Jack Dougherty and his family were celebrating a big milestone – the three-year anniversary of Jack’s heart surgery, an operation made necessary because of congenital heart defects the little Mustang boy had at birth. But, on Friday that was, at least for now, just a memory, as Jack, his sister Anna and his parents, Kristin and Ryan, set up a lemonade stand in their front yard.
But, this wasn’t just any lemonade stand. Jack and Anna were offering refreshment on that hot, hot day, not to make a little change but to help others – and to remember others who have not shared their luck or fortune.
“There is so much bad in the world - not only do I not want my kids to focus on the bad things, I want them to be part of the good,” Kristen says. “Sometimes the world needs reminded of kind acts by strangers because there is so much beauty and kindness in the world, even though lately it doesn't seem that way.”
Each cup given out was marked with the name of a child, those who have suffered and persevered – like Jack – and others who did not live through the fight. They are children Kristin says she remembers every day, as if they were her own.
“We gave away free lemonade to share kindness and make people smile but also to raise awareness for kids like Jack with heart defects that are both living and dead, for Charlie Keith who died while fighting childhood cancer, for Karsynn and Jaxson who were born forever sleeping,” she says.
That was the first step, but it wouldn’t be the last. Moved by the family’s sweet gesture, resident Rena Bohn made her own ripple in that pond, posting on Facebook and asking people to go by Jack and Anna’s stand.
It was a hot, hot day, but that is what they did. Not only did residents get in their car and go to see the kids’ and take a sip of their lemonade, that Facebook post prompted a call to Mustang Fire Department, where Lt. Allen Sylvester took a call asking if firefighters might want to drop by.
There was no hesitation, no excuse that the men were busy – in literally 10 minutes they were on their way. And, in the process, these men, who do so much for so many every day, went above and beyond what they always do.
The big fire truck pulled up to a couple of kids with wide eyes and huge grins, as the firefighters spent perhaps half an hour drinking lemonade, letting Jack and Anna climb into the truck and wear their helmets and more.
They more than made Jack’s day – they showed him that he and his family are not alone in giving to others.
Kristen says what she wanted to teach her children came to life on Friday.
You know what? Every single person that we gave to only wanted nothing but to give back to us,” she says. “It was so humbling and amazing to put a small kindness out there and have it come back to us tenfold.”
Kristin and Jack, Allen and his fellow firefighters – they are just a few examples of the best of us and how they keep a light shining on the kindness that lives in this world. Kristin is right that there is a lot of ugliness, hate and sadness, something that sometimes seems to get worse and worse with time. But, there is also love and caring, warmth and commitment.
And, a little Mustang lemonade stand standing in the late springtime heat offers a glimpse into the refreshment that that kindness can offer. Now all we need to do is pass it on.