When you grow up on an Air Force Base, much of your life is lived differently than the “civilians.” We had regulations about how long our lawn could grow, and what time boys in the neighborhood needed to go inside so as not to disrupt everyone else’s sleep. We carried ID cards, which allowed us to have access to the different stores without having to be with one of our parents. Ten years’ old was a rite of passage! We could go to the BX or the Commissary, or even the other smaller stores on base, by just flashing our ID.
One of the important cultural directives each year would be published about the middle of October. It was the annual Halloween Trick or Treat regulation. Basically, it was a reminder that on Halloween, participants were allowed to trick or treat from 1800 – 2000 hours. (That’s 6pm-8pm for your civvies…) We were not to run down the streets, and to watch for cars, and to be mindful of the decorative belongings at each house. Dad would just tell us, “Remember who you are.” We would spend hours drawing maps of the neighborhood, and then developing the best strategy for getting to as many houses as possible, without having to backtrack and lose time. Of course, along with that came the important reminder we gave each other, to knock or ring the doorbell once, and count to 30, and if no one answered, we would run to the next house. We couldn’t waste time with only 120 minutes.
Of course, with that small window, we needed to completely cover our neighborhood, and not be lured into going to the neighborhoods too far away, which always had the rumor of “someone” handing out miniature rolls of Lifesavers, if you could believe that!
After the two hours, we would congregate in the living room, and sort out the candy, which was always way more than we could ever eat – but we did so anyway. I won’t go into the bargaining we made with our little sisters, to encourage them to give up their best stuff, in exchange for gumballs or Charleston Chews. That’s a story of another day.
Needless to say, the regulations were made to keep us safe, and to keep the neighborhood from devolving into a candy riot zone. We always had fun, and I have to say I miss that time, and was never able to fully re-live it as I took my own sons around at different Halloweens. In fact, I still recall the shock of hearing my own flesh and blood descendants saying, after we had gone about a half hour of trick or treating one year, that they were tired, and they had… enough candy. Who were they, and what had they done with my children! No amount of encouragement or urging could keep them from just going inside, and being done for the night, with all sorts of homes untouched, and candy unharvested. It was rough, I must say.
All that brings us to this year. You perhaps as well are caught up in the community discussions of Halloween, given the scariest specter of CoVid looming over the cities. All sorts of announcements and recommendations and warnings have come from the mayor’s office and various health organizations about the deadly trick or treating consequences. Isn’t it interesting that no one is really mentioning the razor blades or pins in the candy this year? It’s more of what they fear will be handed out WITH the candy.
Enter the Meadow Creek homeowner association. It’s not really an HOA, although it is asked that everyone kick in $50/year to cover the cost of plants and flowers at the front of the development, and a pizza night or a free ice cream truck evening. Most of the time, we live in simple freedom, with the occasional email reminder to folks to make sure they pick up after their dogs, and for the kids to watch for cars as they play roller skate hockey in the street.
This year, however, has been different. The email was sent to all residents from the “leadership council.” These folks are somehow elected because no one else has either the time nor the inclination to use up energy trying to “lead” the neighborhood. It would be kind of like our five spruce trees in the back yard trying to lead the clematis and the hydrangea plants… The email, carefully written, but you have to wonder if it were well thought out, attempted to recommend/regulate the comings and goings of trick or treating on the Meadow Creek Circle.
“Following CDC recommendations…” the email laid out what the “leaders” agreed would be the safest method for gathering candy. First, they took a page book from the Air Force, and tried to limit the time frame for trick or treating. However, their plan, for a Saturday Halloween, was to hold it from 4pm-6pm. We won’t change over to standard time until Sunday, so that meant the entire trick or treating time was to occur in daylight. Now that’s scary, right?
Next, they presented various ways to distribute the candy. “Use a long pole with a basket on the end,” “tie up the treats in small bundles, and set them on a table ten feet away from you, and invite the children to pick up one – and only one – bundle.” “Create a fun system to transfer the candy.” “open your garage, and toss candy to the kids.” The email ended up with the “leaders” stating how they hoped to keep our community safe, and pandemic free (say that to the kids who are playing street hockey…).
When I read the email the first time, my respond was, “Oh, this should be fun!” And sure enough, within a few hours and over the next few days, what appeared to be the libertarian response to what they perceived to be the socialist dictum set the emails on fire. “We don’t need any more top-down commands on how we are to live our lives!” “I’ve never heard of such a stupid set of recommendations!” “We are going to hand out candy the way we always have – these children need a break from everything that’s going on in our world!” “Mind your own business!” Kind of goes to show how fragile our community really is.
Actually, I think the email, and the responses, better goes to show how filled with anxiety our lives are right now. First, to have to tell your neighbors how to structure something as traditional and low-tech as handing out candy reveals a pretty strong need to control. Second, to even have to respond out loud to the email betrays a reactive, and anxious mind. It’s sort of why people are speeding way faster than normal down city streets. No one is going to tell him/her what they can or cannot do, even if they have to wear masks.
So, the great 2020 Trick or Treat Wars continues, as more and more folks pile on to reactively respond to a reactively anxious email. I would simply suggest, if you are socially distanced enough, that you take a deep breath, and not accidentally do or say things that don’t build up the neighborhood, just as they don’t build up the body of Christ.
When we are able to stop – even for a moment, and catch our breath, and wipe off the feeling of the mask on our faces, perhaps we can remember that everyone is just doing the best they can, even when it seems to not be either helpful or hopeful. When we are intentional, we can do things are indeed are both helping and hope-spreading, which is a powerful form of love.
And if you have any of those little Lifesavers…
Word for the Day: labefaction or labefactation. Pronounced lub-uh-FAK-shun. It’s a passively powerful word. It means “a weakening, or decaying,” or “a coming apart, or falling into ruin.” Of course it’s Latin, from two words, labi, meaning “fall,” and facere, “to make.” Labefaction doesn’t occur when you set off dynamite in a building, or when you use a battering ram to knock down the castle door. It’s happens when, over the course of years, decades, and even centuries, something that once was so strong and standing powerful, simply weakens, or the rain melts the old mortar, or time itself lends it hand to slowly and surely have something fall to ruin, to come apart, to be destroyed, not by an invader, but by the fact of its own finiteness. It happens with structures, it happens with societies and governments, and it even happens with relationships, if the structure is not cared for and treated to help it remain standing. Every divorce is a labefaction of some sort.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.