A Halloween Lesson
By JIM NICHOLS
Like many other children, I grew up with great appreciation for Halloween. What can be better for a child than to dress up in a costume of some sort, walk up to a stranger’s door, and they give you candy? For free! What a deal! I have lots of memories associated with Halloween and they are almost 100 percent positive and fun.
As I became a parent, my own children’s delight at the holiday continued to be special for me. Especially when they were younger, I would walk along with them (staying an appropriate distance in the yard or street) and let them have the fun I had had for so many years. Maybe they would even share some of their candy with me back at home.
With our children grown and gone, it has become our turn to be the candy distributors and that brings its own joy. Some children are so excited they bounce up and down on the porch so fast that you cannot even get the candy into their plastic pumpkin or sack. They do not walk from door to door—they run. Some of the costumes are identifiable, but others are clearly simply an excuse to become someone or something else for a couple of hours. I understand there are some who question Halloween sentiment, but it seems to me to be simple childhood fun.
There is room even in fun for lessons to be taught, and I learned a serious one a few years ago. It has to do with our house—our physical house. This requires some description.
We have a nice house. It is about twenty years old, three bedrooms and two baths. 1,800 square feet. Plenty of room for the two of us. The design of the house is such that it includes rather large windows on the front and similarly large windows on the back. Thus, there are windows facing the front and back yards. When the lighting is just right, one can be in the front yard and see right through the house into the back yard. Logically, at night we close the blinds, but not on Halloween.
The front windows allow the living room to be seen easily from the outside, especially at night. We like color and decorations in our family, so the living room is packed with seasonal decorations in addition to the furniture and books in the room. The furniture includes a large bright red couch and other colorful pieces. The ceiling is high, the lights are bright, and the fan spins above.
The house is on a long street with no close cross streets. During some Halloweens in the past, there have been several neighborhood children collecting candy, but many of them have grown up now. As a substitute, the long block has apparently become attractive to children from other neighborhoods. Pick-ups and SUVs drive up slowly, the doors open, and children pour out. Usually, we do not recognize any of them. We have counted well over 100 children on many nights.
My rule is that anyone brave enough to put on a costume and approach a strange door deserves candy. There is no age discrimination; I have recognized some of my college students.
The night I am remembering was typical in its variety of ages and costumes. It appeared that everyone was having fun and most even remembered to say, “Thank you.” Some individuals were out, but in general they appeared in small groups.
A group of three girls about ten years old appeared on the porch. I did not recognize them nor their costumes. They all had much darker skin color than I have. “Trick or Treat” they shouted almost in unison. They were jumping up and down in delight as I doled out the candy. Two of them turned and left quickly for the next house. One just stood there looking into the living room through the large front windows. After what seemed a long time, with her eyes still on our living room and not looking at me, she said quietly, “You have a beautiful house, mister.”
Frankly, I was speechless. I did murmur a “Thank you,” but could think of nothing else to say.
I have pondered that moment for years. That child thought I lived in a mansion, and, in many ways, I do. My house probably looks nothing like hers and that is reminiscent of the difference between her ten-year-old life and my life as a ten-year-old.
I believe that girl might well have been an angel that God sent that night to teach me a thankfulness lesson.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current medical chaplain