There is nothing like waking up at 5 am on Halloween with a creative idea jumping around in your brain. And when you are THAT person, you find yourself jumping out of bed and through the course of the day gathering supplies and making monster hands to give out that night to the 200 trick or treaters appearing at your door. Your husband and future daughter-in-law join in the fun when there are two hours to go and you only have 60 hands made. Chaos. Creativity.
Was it worth it? Yes. I want kids who come to my door to know that they are SPECIAL and someone thinks they are totally WORTH it. I want families to know that the pastor family down the street cares enough to make something fun for their child. I want those extra conversations that having something FUN at your door will illicit from otherwise harried parents chasing after little Duck Dynasty guys and princesses and miniature Clark Kents.
Halloween has been one of those touchy subjects among church people. When I was growing up, it wasn’t a THING. As in- will we, won’t we- what should we do- kind of THING. A movement happened and those of us in the evangelical world wondered if we should. Alternatives popped up. People hid in their homes with the lights out. Everything changed.
And here is what bothered me about this whole THING. Those of us who might not have the same convictions were often shamed into going along with the crowd. We were made to feel LESS THAN if we ventured out into the neighborhoods with our littles dressed as clowns and princes and ninjas instead of going to the church Harvest party with our littles dressed as Bible characters.
I’ve been the children’s pastor hosting the Harvest Party. I’ve been the children’s pastor secretly taking my kid’s trick or treating so as not to offend those in my church.
Life is a process and we think differently and do differently and we learn. And here is what I have learned. There is a time and a place for a Harvest party in a church. There is a time and a place for Trunk or Treating. And there is a time and a place for opening your door wide and welcoming even the most ghoulish of costumed kids. There is a time and a place for joining in the community of parents keeping up with their kids and saying hello at the street corners.
It all depends. It is complicated. Can we just trust one another to do the THING that makes the most sense to them? For me, I have 200 kids in my neighborhood so this is where I want to be. For someone who lives in the country, a trunk or treat would be just the right THING. For someone who truly has a deep conviction about the whole night, quietly bowling might be his or her answer.
It was the year that I refused to go to the Noah’s Ark party at the church. It was pre-kids. Something deep within me wanted to be home to give out special candy to the kids in our neighborhood so I made a lame excuse why I couldn’t be at the party. They didn’t buy it and I knew it. But I pretended anyway. I spent the night feeling guilty. Here I was secretly doing this THING but it felt right and good.
She came to the door with her neighbor and their kids. She looked at me and said, “I’ve never met you but you sent me a note. I don’t know if you remember. Thank you so much for caring about us. You have no idea what it meant to me.”
I asked how she was doing. We spoke a few quiet words away from the ears of the littles with her. Then she was gone. With the kids. Down the dark street.
I remembered the note. In the small town paper I read how she had held the just born baby in her arms as he took the last breath and drifted off to heaven. And so I sent a note telling her how sorry I was. She lived down the street. I recognized the address in the obituary.
If I had gone to the Noah’s Ark party at the church that night I would never have met her. After that night, I never saw her again. But for one moment in time we were community. For one moment I was able to step into her pain.
I had no idea when I wrote that note, when I stood at the door looking into her eyes, feeling her pain and hopefully reflecting God’s love that one day I, too, would hold the body of my own baby. One without breath. One who drifted off to heaven.
I’m so glad I stayed home that night.