ValueSpeak - A Weekly Column by Joseph Walker


It was a balmy summer evening about 12 years ago, and my wife, Anita, and I were downtown with our two youngest children, Elizabeth and Jon.  We'd had a pleasant time visiting with old friends, and were chatting and playing as we walked a block-and-a-half along a busy thoroughfare to where the family van was parked.

As we approached a busy intersection, the light turned green and we hurried to get across.  We were all holding hands -- four abreast -- as we jogged across the crosswalk.  About halfway across, then-7-year-old Jonathan half-laughed, half-cried, "My pants are falling down!"

There were several factors contributing to Jon's problem.  First, he was wearing brand new school pants, and every parent knows that you never buy a first-grader clothes that fit exactly.  You always give them room to grow, which is why Jon's new pants were hanging pretty loose.  Second, I was holding his left hand as we hustled across the street, leaving him with only his right hand to hold on to his pants as they started to slide down – and since Jon is left-handed, at that point in his life he was not especially good at doing things with his right hand.

And third – and I'm not sure how to say this delicately – Jon had no . . . you know . . . bum.  I mean, of course he had one.  But he's always been kind of a tall, gangly guy, and there has never been a lot of meat on his bones.  Especially not . . . you know . . . back there.  Certainly not enough to hold his pants up.  Hence, slippage.

All of which could have been overcome with a tightly cinched belt.  But even though Jon had a belt on, it was fastened so loosely that . . . well, I don't think it was fastened at all, come to think of it.  It was just sort of looped through the belt loops and tucked in his pants.

Which were now nearly down to his knees.

Thankfully, 7-year-olds are inclined to view events such as losing one's pants in public as humorous, and we were all laughing by the time we got to the other side of the street and got Jon's underwear back under.  When I asked him what happened, he said, "My pants are too loose!"

"That's why you have a belt," I said.

"But you were holding my hand so I couldn't hold my pants up," he said.

"But that wouldn't have mattered if your belt was on tight."

"But I don't have a bum!" he said.

"But you don't need a bum if you're wearing your belt tight enough."

"But I don't like it when my belt is tight," he said.  "It feels like I can't move."

"Well, `not moving' is sort of the point of wearing a belt," I said.  "Especially for your pants."

We're all kind of funny that way, aren't we?  We focus on Things We Don't Have That We Just Know Would Make Our Lives So Much Better If We Only Had Them – you know, things like wealth, fame and movie star looks – when we're not taking full advantage of what we already have.  And then we find ourselves halfway across the street with our pants around our knees looking for excuses, while the belt that could have prevented the problem just sort of hangs there, unused.

The fact of the matter is, we'll probably never be rich enough, or smart enough, or attractive enough, or popular enough – at least, there will always be someone richer, smarter, more attractive or more popular.  And that's OK, because no matter who we are and no matter what we do, we have strengths, talents and abilities that make us unique.  Interesting.  Worthwhile.  That's what we need to stress in our lives, without stressing out over whatever it is we don't have.

So life doesn't catch us . . . you know . . . with our pants down.

— © Joseph Walker

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“Look What Love Has Done:  Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit.” 

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