Five hundred dollars for church camp is quite a sum for a single mom to produce. Karen worked overtime, scrimped and saved, but she could only manage four hundred fifty. The deadline for sign up loomed the next day. The twins’ lemonade stand cost them every penny of their allowance. They wanted nothing more than to go to camp with the other eight-year-old girls in their class.
Officer Clark pulled up and stopped. He fished around in his pocket for change. He downed his drink, never taking his eyes from Karen. She’d gone out with him a few times, and now he looked to be garnering brownie points. He bought another glass.
“You ought to do well today. The 5K run is on the next street. People park on this street and walk over. You’ll make a fortune.” He tipped his hat at Karen and the girls.
Clark was right. Streams of cars found parking places on Karen’s street, and many of the drivers bought lemonade from the girls. They began to think that they might earn their fifty dollars after all.
The sweltering afternoon blazed on as two quart jars filled to the brim with quarters. The traffic slowed and the girls stopped to count their money.
“We did it!” Mandy and Macy squealed and jumped for joy.
“Thank you, Lord.” Karen hugged her two excited daughters and joined in the jumping.
Officer Clark drove up again. He frowned, and sat in his car for a moment before approaching the girls.
“Do you girls have a permit to sell in this neighborhood, or specifically for the 5K event?” He spoke softly and looked miserable.
“What? No, it’s just a lemonade stand.” Karen squinted her eyes in the sun. Surely he must be joking.
“Then I’m afraid I’m going to have to shut you down. The official vendors for the 5K run complained that you cut into their profits and that you probably didn’t have a permit. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t believe it. If you’re not kidding then this is ridiculous. A lemonade stand? Since when?” She pressed her lips together to control any further words. This hurt.
“I’m sorry, Karen, it’s the law. I didn’t know it either. Chief Smith is new and eager to make his mark. He did say that if you give the money back, there won’t be a fine.”
“Girls, go in the house.” Karen waited until the door shut behind them. “How can they give it back? We don’t know most of the people who passed through here today. You know this is their camp money, right?”
“I’m so sorry, Karen. I risked my job arguing with him about it.”
“Here, take it.” Tears streamed down her face as she shoved the two jars at the Officer.
“This is really difficult.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “I can’t take the money. It has to go back to the people who paid you. I realize that is impossible now. I’m afraid the fine is five hundred dollars.” He wrote her a ticket and knew that a chance for any further dates with Karen probably just evaporated.
Stricken, Karen turned away from him. She wiped her tears. How could she tell the girls that there would be no camp? She’d used this whole experience to encourage them in the value of work, and the importance of faith.
“Don’t worry, Mommy, Jesus will come through,” Mandy said, with Macy nodding her head.
Karen’s heavy heart pounded in her chest on the drive to church Sunday morning. Should she go ahead and pay for camp and risk not having money to pay that outrageous fine?
Ed Clark met her at the door. “Listen, I convinced the Chief to wave the fine if you’d give the jars of quarters from the lemonade stand to charity.”
Karen breathed a sigh of relief. She carried her hard earned four hundred fifty dollars in her purse. Maybe the church would take that much and give her a little more time.
The Pastor took the podium.
“First, we’d like to encourage you single moms today, and let you know that your children’s camp fee is already paid.”
The girls gasped and hugged each other. As the offering music began, Karen placed four hundred fifty tear stained dollars in the plate, straight from the heart.
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