“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

If you’ve ever been through a difficult time or been down in the dumps, you’ve most likely had someone try to encourage you or lift your sprits by telling you to go make lemonade. Personally, I’ve never liked this saying. It always sounded a little demeaning and kind of curt. I mean if I tried to make lemonade using only lemons, I’d have nothing but a cup of sour lemon juice. You may as well cut my lip before telling me to take a drink because that’s the only way to make the scenario any worse.

I recently had the pleasure of watching one of my kids make lemonade and this phrase came back to me. But this time, it was different. I had an epiphany. The heavens opened up, angels sang, and my distain suddenly turned to admiration. The phrase unexpectedly took on new meaning. I mean, have you ever seen how much sugar goes into lemonade? If you haven’t…trust me, it’s A LOT!

Lemonade requires only three ingredients; water, sugar, and lemons (or lemon juice). In order to make good lemonade, the first step of the process involves boiling the water and sugar together to create a mixture called “simple syrup.” Essentially, the boiling process takes two ingredients and makes them one sweet sticky substance. Without this step, the water and sugar remain as two separate ingredients. The sugar sinks in the water, and the result is the visual equivalent of mixing sand and water.

In the grand world of simple syrups, there are three types:

1. Thin simple syrup comprised of three parts water and one part sugar

2. Medium simple syrup comprised of two parts water and one part sugar

3. Thick simple syrup comprised of one part water and one part sugar (this is the simple syrup used to make fruity drinks, such as lemonade.)

Once the thick simple syrup is prepared, add one part lemon juice, and…voilà, lemonade!

I think life is just as basic. (Follow me here)… The water is the one constant. It doesn’t really change in the formula. It’s the “what” in life. Each day we wake up in the morning, go about our normal daily activities (whatever those may be), and we end our day the same way as most everyone else, falling asleep, only to get up and repeat the process.

The sugar is our attitude. It’s “how” in life, and the effort that we put forth, even on the most mundane of days, to make life worth living. The effort is not only for us but for others as well. The attitude and approach we take on a consistent basis is like the simple syrup, and the consistency of the simple syrup is up to us. We get to choose how much sugar we want to add to our “water” creating a recipe for how sweet our approach will be.

The lemons are all of the things that life throws at us. It’s the car that won’t start in the morning or the bill you can’t pay. It’s the relative that calls to tell you they were diagnosed with cancer or the job you recently lost. Some lemons are bigger and more sour than others. The lemons are going to come regardless. That’s part of life.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it this way:

It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it, that matters.

So, live a life full of sugar, that way when life hands you lemons, you are prepared to make the best lemonade possible.


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