Making the short walk from the school building across campus to my apartment this afternoon, I was sweating after walking two minutes. I noticed a truck near the apartments from which people were shoveling dirt (or manure?) onto a pile on the ground.
As I got closer, I realized the two people wielding the shovels were boys about 10 years old. Working quickly, they didn't seem to be fazed by the strenuous work in the heat and sun. As I passed I said hello to the boys, first in Myanmar and then English. Typical Myanmar reaction - they stopped for a moment, gave me huge smiles and waved.
I couldn't help but think of how mightily my brother and I complained about the chores we had to do as kids. Putting dishes into the dishwasher. Sweeping the porch. Making beds and cleaning toilets. Putting clothes into the washer and dryer.
I don't condone child labor. I hope the boys attend school when it is in session. It did occur to me though, that if I have my first graders do a bit of shoveling every day it might help them burn off some energy.
Speaking of digging reminds me of a story. My father was a clever guy. When my brother and I were about 4 and 7 he convinced us that if we dug a hole at just the right spot in our backyard in Arizona, we would be able to dig all the way to China. Really, he showed us on a globe how it would work. Once there we could make new friends with some Chinese children. My brother and I were all for it and dug with great enthusiasm. Not much skill, but lots of enthusiasm. We gave up on the "new Chinese friends" idea not long after we started. My dad stepped in, dug for a bit and then planted a lemon tree. That was his plan all along.
To add insult to injury, a couple of years later my brother and his friend and I were playing sheriffs and outlaw. I was the outlaw and was strung up by the neck from that lemon tree for rustling cattle. Luckily, my mom saw what was happening and cut me down. I always hated that tree.