November 19

Three Boys and a Sign


Imagine the scene: three young men, walking along the street, mid to late teens. They look tough, and most likely, they are. On the street, they are a mini-pack of angry young men in demeanor and appearance… until one of them knocks over a street sign advertising the daily specials at a restaurant with his elbow.

Such a thing would be easy to do. The sign is a classic tent design that is basically a couple of chalkboards in an easel shape with a hinge at the top. To be honest, it was placed on a busy sidewalk and required a little effort to avoid.

The question is: What did the boys do?

The three boys stopped, turned at the sound of the fallen sign, and two of them walked back to the sign and righted it. The other young man, waiting for his friends, called out to the waiter of the restaurant and apologized.

To me, this was an interesting cultural note. While younger children (in my experience, at least) have a tendency to want to help, the young men were at an age where “helping” did not appear to be part of their visual image, kind of like a heavily-painted goth girl squealing over ice cream or stuffed animals in a window. It’s just a little hard to imagine, but it is an image that underscores the cultural differences of my new home from where I left.

Asking for help is common in this society… even asking from a stranger walking by. Teenage boys picking up signs is an interesting display of the unexpected, reminding me that I am somewhere new. And, gentle reader, lest you think that I am so much of a cynic to think that the values of helping others is akin to unicorns and leprechauns, I am simply making an observation of something that seemed so normal to everyone around me, but caught me by surprise. Both positives and negatives exist in every culture, and I was not so much shocked at the behavior of the young men as the attitude of reparation, something that seems less common that it used to be.


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