This is from a letter on April 7th.
"4 days ago I was walking through some orchards and palm groves with a team of men, searching for... stuff. Anyway, we came across a house with a mom, 3 little boys and 2 little girls. Of course I did not have anything with me to give them because I store it in my truck and can't carry it when we are searching. So I told the little boys if they followed me back to the truck 500 meters away I would give them soccer balls. So they began following us. We were walking through the orchards which the Iraqis have irrigated by digging small canals throughout, which make them tough to navigate. They are also full of briar and other such thorn bushes due to recent neglect over the winter. Well, these 3 little boys, about 10, 7 and 4, were barefoot walking behind us trying to keep up. The smallest one was having trouble due to his short legs and inability to conquer the obstacles like the others. I did not have a multerjum (interpreter) with me, so I just walked over to him, picked him up and carried him waist level with me. At first he was really scared and his eyes got big - "what the heck is this dude about to do to me?!?" After a few seconds he realized my intentions and got this cool, relaxed look that I've only ever seen in young Iraqi boys, and just rode along there with me. The look is unique because it is not happiness or sadness at first, it's a look of complete innocence and in a way, vulnerability, knowing that you can do anything you want to them and they are at your mercy. But then they give you this look; they know because you are American that you won't let harm come to them. It's a look of protection I think. Anyway, it's interesting. Wish I could have had a picture but we had a timeline.
So I get back to the trucks with these kids, who trudged all the way through the damn orchards with us, and to my dismay, the guys at the truck had handed out all the balls already! I really felt bad. We looked through all the vehicles and managed to find one soccer ball, which we gave to them, and I also found a humanitarian aid bag with rice, sugar, salt and tea in it, so I sent that with them as well. I felt bad that I didn't have three balls but they are brothers so one should do, and I'm sure their mother will appreciate the food stuffs.
Yesterday I was in the same area, and a kid saw the balls in our trucks as we got out, and we were immediately hounded by 20 or so kids of all ages screaming for a ball. The bigger kids start pushing aside the smaller ones, next thing you know kids are crying and getting stepped on and all kinds of trouble arises. That's when we get a little irritated, but it's easy to control kids when you are in your gear - they know you mean business. So I immediately tell them to stop moving and be quiet. Then I usually give the smallest kids a few things, just crayons and books, and tell the rest not to beg. Or I tell all the boys to leave and I only give things to the girls. If they start begging, our policy is we don't give to beggars. "mista, give me" is a popular phrase but warrants no ball or toys. I tell them "enteenee" which means "give me!" in Iraqi. Some get the point and they go find something to trade you. It teaches them that you have to give to recieve, and it's interesting what kinds of things they come up with to trade. Yesterday I traded 5 balls for 4 marbles and a small bag of apples.
Of course if we are in a town and the kids are well behaved and not looking for handouts, we happily give things away. You just have to be careful how you conduct business in very poulated areas...
I have about 100 or so balls waiting to be inflated and taken out..... thank you all so much! I apreciate each of you putting your time into this."