It takes only a single pencil, a single piece of brass hitting the desert floor, a single piece of candy thrown to the single kid in the middle of the nowhere for hundreds or thousands of kids to pop up out of the desert dust. Kids are cool. Troops like kids. But they're curious and they can easily get out of hand in large numbers while standing still.
Our policy was NEVER EVER give stuff to kids while stationary. Our team clown broke this rule once or twice, re-inforcing need and enforcement of the rule. Now, there are people out there that say we shouldn't give stuff to kids, period, and others that say it shouldn't be thrown from a moving vehicle. I will strongly disagree with both.
Afghani kids are kids, just like any other kids. They will find something to play with and more often than not, it's the only thing plentiful in Afghanistan: rocks. It's amazing the fun they can have with rocks. They stack rocks. They have car rocks. They bounce rocks. They play with rocks in slingshots (and are accurate). They collect rocks.
But all kids seem drawn to self-expression and one of the biggest treats they can get are pencils, pens, or markers. They'd stick their finger in the middle of their hands to demonstrate that they wanted something to draw with. They'd line the riverbed roads at the sound of a HumVee. Well, first it would be only one or two.
TimeTraveler©2009, TT, all rights reserved.
Authorized for republication in Afghanistan Lessons Learned