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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sidewalks

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The first one came just a little after 5pm. It was one of those Frozen characters, a tiny Elsa or Anna. I get them confused.

She was barely old enough to walk. This Elsaís cheeks were round and red from the chilly October air. Mom held her hand while dad stood on the sidewalk grinning and taking pictures with his cell phone. It was obvious by the parentsí enthusiasm and the blank stare on Elsaís face that this was her first time trick or treating.

While Iím almost certain she didnít have the necessary chomping strength to chew up the starburst and tootsie rolls I placed in her bag, it didnít stop me from giving her a handful of them. She was cute. Her parents were excited. The joy of a new tradition had started for this young family.

ďOh wow, look how pretty you are!Ē I said to the young princess. ďWho are you dressed up as?Ē I proceeded to ask this tiny tot.

With a glazed look in her eyes and dried snot under her nose, she responded by simply raising her bag. No rhyming words or clever catch phrases. Just an innocent gesture that indicated her knowledge of this classic cultural custom we call Halloween.
She would be the first of many.

All sorts of unusual but also predictable characters came to my door. Vampires and witches; more Elsaís and Annaís, as well as Jasmine and Cinderella; zombies and sport stars; something that appeared to be Bigfoot, and Sherlock Holmes. Some of the costumes were quite clever. Others were less thoughtful. But all were endearing.

I enjoy Halloween. For some it may be a difficult day depending on our religious or cultural perspectives. Some of us might have a sour taste because of those 16 year olds who come to the door and want the same candy little Elsa wanted on what was her first Halloween outing. Many might find it hard to justify spending money on candy, the very items dentist and health teachers preach against eating. Dog owners may despise the night knowing that every time the doorbell rings, our faithful four legged friends will spaz out, barking and putting on their best Cujo impersonation.

But my appreciation for the traditions of Halloween runs deep.

For one night a year we give our communities permission to get outside and visit their neighbors. Families are with their kids, who we complain spend too much time inside. Here, they are reclaiming the ancient practice of walking.
For one night a year we get to gift strangers and neighbors, ghosts and little goblins, treats for their tricks.

For one night a year we get to imitate the grace of God to the children in our communities. We donít know you. We donít know how hard you worked, or didnít work, on your costume. You didnít have to come to our house or this neighborhood. But you did. And we are glad you did, because grace means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you.

For one night a year our children get to dress up as their heroes and imitate their dreams!

For one night a year the city streets are a buzz with different people of different generations from different parts of town!

While I celebrate the way Halloween pulls a community together, I also lament the very practice that draws us out into these streets, because I long for the day when we donít have to dress up as something else to visit our neighbors. I long for the day when the wisest in the community and the youngest are brought together without the needed premise of trick or treating. I long for the day when we no longer have to wear masks in order to go door to door to gain but a glimpse of the lives of those we call neighbors.

Every year I find myself gushing with joy as I hand outlandish amounts of candy to all people who come to my door. No matter how old or how young; no matter how detailed their costumes are, because at the end of the day, when the candy bowl is bare, I hope that the communityís hospitality, the kindness that comes from handing out 2 Kit-Kat bars instead of 1, the brief interaction with strangers on our porch steps, and the vulnerability of a child to trust their tricks will result in a treat.

My greatest hope is that these gestures brought on by a holy day of story telling and community making will lead to a season of authentic relationships. Halloween reminds us that we may be our true selves or false selves. God leaves us free to be whatever we like.
But we cannot make these choices with impunity.

If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion reigns.

I can either be Olaf.

Or I can be Adam.

[Adam Quine of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]

Civic

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