Some of my fellow MOTs are reluctant to let their children observe Halloween. There are a variety of reasons why this is so and I admit to having been reluctant to get into it, but that is a different story for a different day.
I once heard Rabbi Ed Feinstein give a sermon in which he outlined some compelling reasons for taking our children out and wanted to share some of it with you.
“I take my kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. The truth is that you don’t find many rabbis out on Halloween. Many of my congregants are surprised, even upset, to find their rabbi and his kids in costume celebrating a holiday that has definite Christian and pagan origins. And my kids certainly don’t need any more candy in their daily diet. But something remarkable happens on Halloween, something I want my kids to see: On Halloween, we open our homes to one another. On Halloween, we come out from behind solid-core doors and dead-bolts locks and electronic burglar alarms. The doorbell is met, not with a gruff “Whose there?” and a suspicious eye in the peep-hole, but with a smile and sweets. On Halloween, and only on Halloween, we pretend we are a neighborhood again…families from disparate background who share common civic values, making life together in a common space. If only once a year, I want my kids to see what it’s like when fear subsides, and people trust one another enough to open their doors.”
Sadly there is so much truth in that. There are fewer and fewer neighborhoods that have that open, friendly, Leave it To Beaver feel in which you can let your children play unattended in the front of the house.
All too often you only know the neighbors on either side of you and you just barely recognize the man/woman down the street. So I see a lot of value in being able to show the kids something out of my past because I walked to school and reached a point at which my friends and I were allowed to trick or treat by ourselves. That is not something that my children are going to share with me and I am saddened by it.
Here is another snippet of the speech.
“The most destructive disease in America, wrote the New Republic magazine some years ago, is not AIDS, but “AFRAIDS” — the pervasive fear of violence that steals away our freedom, our sense of community, our trust. What happens to a city when everyone is afraid of everyone else? What happens to us — to our souls — to our children, when fear of violence is constant and pervasive? Bombarded by a daily litany of baby-snatching, berserk gunmen, child molesters, drive-by shootings, school shootings, police shootings, what happens to us? what happens to our children?”
This is something that I do wonder about. I have a hard time believing that things are so much worse now than they were. Part of me expects, or should I suspects that the vast amount of instant information (read news) has made some events seem to be far more prevalent then they used to be in the past because the sad reality is that pedophiles, rapists and murderers have always been here.
But while I will go to great lengths to give to my children I am not willing to take certain risks because every time I think of the final line of that speech it resonates with me
“When they finally fell asleep, my wife and I dumped out all the candy on the kitchen table, to inspect each and every piece for needle marks and razor blades and the pernicious, poisonous tampering of some sick mind. God help us.”
So we do what we can to keep them safe and to provide a normal life because what else can you do. I try to do what I can to be a good neighbor and look out for those around here not just because it is my neighborhood but because if you do it here there is a chance that it might spread. A viral infection of positive action.
Last year some teenage boys and I had a little stand-off. They were stealing pumpkins and smashing them. I would be less then forthcoming if I said that I hadn’t engaged in my share of juvenile behavior, but at the same time I understood that there were risks involved.
Boys, I am going to be looking for you again this year and I will not hesitate to stop you but let me give you fair warning. A couple of the other fellows around the ‘hood have paintguns and have decided that it might be fun to try and decorate those people who look for tricks and not treats.
One more note in honor of Halloween I remind you of the story I blogged about earlier this year: