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The Boy With Sagging Pants

On one of my recent India trips, our team had stopped at a roadside café in the middle of the Himalayan foothills in Jammu-Kashmir to grab some breakfast. (Picture an open-air pavilion rather than an IHOP.) Not being a big breakfast eater, I got some tea and wandered around, seeking to engage the locals.

As I stood on the side of the road which bordered a forest, I noticed a boy of about 12 carrying firewood out of the trees and over to his family's humble tea stall (a roadside shack that sold tea to passers-by). It was obvious that this was the only source of income for the family, and that it wasn't a very lucrative endeavor.

The boy, who was dressed in a pair of tattered pants about four sizes too big for him, was struggling to carry the wood, navigate the path out of the trees, and keep up with his father's demands for a constant supply of fresh firewood.

It was almost comical, because as the boy would walk, his pants (which were missing any sort of button or belt) would begin to slide down, and he would have to release one of his hands on the wood to grab his pants before they dropped to an embarrassing level. By letting go of the armful of wood to grab his pants, the load became unbalanced and would dump on the ground.

I wanted to help the boy carry the firewood, but I knew that this would only be a temporary fix to a larger problem.

Then some creativity kicked-in, and I remembered that I carried safety pins in my backpack. I retrieved one, and cautiously approached the tea stall. Knowing only a few basic words in the native Urdu language, I used a series of motions, pointing, and demonstrations on myself of the value of a safety-pin for the situation at hand.

The father finally realized that I wasn't a threat and that I genuinely wanted to help his son. He took the safety-pin from me, smiled big and offered me some tea. Refusing the tea would have been a dishonor, but I didn't want there to be any "payment" for my simple act of kindness.

Fortunately for me, our van was loading and I was delaying our departure. I waved goodbye and ran to the van. We pulled away, and that was the last I saw of the boy with sagging pants.

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