July 1, 2018 • Newsletter
Lemons get such a bad rap, don’t they?
I thought about this last week when I received a LinkedIn message from a professional acquaintance. Would I be interested in an opportunity, it asked. A very special opportunity? Ugh. I thought we were beyond that. Even know, in recounting the moment, I find myself with tense shoulders and pursed lips—as though I had just consumed a lemon.
But lemons—by themselves—aren’t the problem. And there’s nothing I can do to change the tart taste of them. But I can change how I respond to that tart taste.
Instead of deleting the message and ignoring it, or sharing with him all the reasons the opportunity wasn’t right for me, I thought about how Mr. Rogers would have responded. He would have responded with kindness. And he wouldn’t have worried about how this other person perceived him and his skills because he was secure in his own contributions to the world. He knew he was making an impact; he saw it every day in his work with children and childhood development. (Can you tell I’ve been obsessed with the recently released documentary, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? See it. Now. Please.)
So I wrote back. I told this person that this opportunity wasn’t right for me, but I would be happy to forward it to some students I knew, and I asked him if he wanted me to do that. Thank goodness I asked. He wrote back right away apologetically and told me his LinkedIn account had been hacked. He asked me not to forward the message or the contact information it contained; it was pure spam, a pure scam.
Poor guy. Can you imagine having your week disrupted by this extra nonsense? I imagine this person had better things to do.
He shared, though, that the experience had prompted some amusing exchanges, and that he was trying his best to make lemonade out of lemons. Apparently he doesn’t favor the tart taste either. But a bit of sugar and water can help. And he can control the sugar and water. He can’t control the lemon’s original flavor.
But sugar and water aren’t the only solution. Lemons make great cleaning agents, air fresheners, insect repellents, and water additives. (In fact, the Farmer’s Almanac lists 22 more ways lemons are useful. None of them involve lemonade.)
But they all involve reframing something that is perceived as negative—tart—into something that is more positive. It takes kindness, patience, and quite a bit of time to do that, none of which are in abundant supply. But they could be.
That’s your task for this month: Reframe what you need to reframe, and add a little patience and kindness to your interactions. Even if you’d rather not. Every time you drink lemonade, listen to lemonade, clean with lemons, or see a lemonade stand, remember that the starting point—even if it’s not great—doesn’t have to dictate the outcome. I think Mr. Rodgers would agree.