Friday, November 2, 2012

Can anything good come out of Halloween?

Halloween was just a couple of days ago. And as I saw the advertisements featuring scantily clad women and devil babies, I got to thinking what good could possibly come out of Halloween.

It certainly doesn’t do anything for women’s equality since most ladies see it as an excuse to get away with wearing as little as possible and calling it a costume. I’m not throwing stones; I owned pleather pants and corsets at one point in my life. And I know it didn’t help anyone see me as a smart, strong, capable woman.

It certainly doesn’t do anything for our selfish American tendencies or our national bent toward obesity. Lots of folks have lamented the folks who came to their door with a sense of entitlement, whether it’s teens without costumes expecting candy in their pillow cases or the family that asks for water and then fusses that they each didn’t get a bottle.

It certainly doesn’t bring out our best selves, for the most part. Halloween is a holiday that glorifies fear and gore. Maybe I’m extra fussy because I don’t like being scared. I don’t like scary movies (although I have seen more than my share since I do like having friends). It really did bother me that one of my neighbors had skulls on stakes in their yard as well as a gravestone with a skeleton resting in the dust. Ugh.

I was wrestling with this since my mom loves Halloween and always has for as long as I can remember. She keeps a stuffed leg, knee to shoe, around all year long so that in the weeks prior to Halloween, she can dangle it from her trunk. And since I love my mom and she loves Halloween, there must be something redeeming about it. 

So I kept my eyes open this Halloween. I saw lots of new things, especially since my son is old enough to be exploring this holiday on his own for the first time. We went to the fall festival at the church, which I know is a safe and secure place, but he was scared of many of the people in costume. Not that they were “scary” costumes, but they obscured the people he may have otherwise recognized. Oh, I had forgotten that. And asking for candy, receiving it, but not eating it didn’t come naturally to him. Some sense of entitlement is a learned behavior, in the same way we teach children not to play with the gifts they open on birthdays or Christmas, but to set them aside and eagerly open more and more. 

But, finally, on the way home, I saw one good thing that comes out of Halloween. My neighbors were out of their houses, sitting in lawn chairs waiting for trick-or-treaters or moving with their families up and down the sidewalks. And porch lights were on, more than I've ever seen, lighting the way to a welcoming house. Wow. It was stunning to see this kind of warmth and hospitality. My neighborhood is fairly new, so there are no front porches. Most days, most of my neighbors and I never set foot outside, let alone linger there, beyond checking the mail (and some even do that from their cars).

I’m outside more nowadays because I want James to play out there. And I delight in how he finds so much to do with leaves, acorns, and other free toys. So I see my neighbors arrive home in the evenings, open their garage doors, pull inside, and close the door behind them. It’s sad. There’s not much that feels neighborly for most neighbors, and I have a feeling I’m not alone.

But on Halloween, we have an excuse to break our well-worn habits, put on silly costumes, and act like neighbors. Thanks be to God.

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