When I was little, growing up in South Carolina, WIS-TV in Columbia produced a number of local shows, many of them for children. In the afternoon, we watched “The Jolly Jim Show,” where Jolly Jim continually battled with The Evil JP Sidewinder in all sorts of scenarios. It was marvelous. On Saturday night, however, at midnight, which took a huge amount of effort to stay awake, the channel presented “The Gravedigger,” who looked a great deal like JP Sidewinder without a beard. The Gravedigger would introduce the old time horror movies, like “Them,” with giant ants, or “Night of the Lupus” with giant bunny rabbits, or the classics like “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” and more. Some might call them more “horrible” than “horror,” but we watched with black and white fascination as the corny plots unfolded, which always ended with the handsome hero and the beautiful girl able to conquer whatever otherworldly, or strange or evil things might be working to overthrow the world. The images I went to bed with were never scary – actually, more campy than anything.
Fast forward to my college years. One Saturday evening, a big group of us decided we would go and see a new horror movie showing at the theater. Please note: I was functioning under the mindset of these kinds of movies would appear to be like the ones I watched when I was a kid. Boy, was I wrong… I won’t even go into the plot of the movie, just to tell you it was truly horrifying. Sadistic, violent, brutal, nothing left to the imagination. After about 1/3 of the movie, I sat with my head down, eyes closed and ears plugged, just to get through the thing. It truly was more evil than anything I had witnessed in my life. Apparently between the 60s and the 70s a huge change had occurred in the making of horror films. They became terror movies, with the worst imagination given the freedom to become portrayed on the big screen.
As we all left the theater – shell shocked as it were – everyone was quiet. I finally asked why they all stayed and watched the horrible thing. They answered that they were waiting for ME to leave! Somehow, I was the unofficial canary in the mine when it came to terrible things like that. I have to say that for weeks following, I still had trouble going to sleep in a dark room. It truly did affect my bearing and my ability to see the world as something good.
Now, maybe that’s just part of growing up, and experiencing things at college that you never would if you were home. It’s kind of “prodigal son” stuff, where you need to go away for a time, and go through the icky things so you can indeed come home. I’ve come to reject that, however – I truly do NOT believe that it is at all necessary, or even preferred to have to experience such terrible images or anything like that. It doesn’t grow us up, and it doesn’t mature us. It’s just bad stuff that reasonable people should never accidentally place themselves before, or ever have to endure.
So, today is Halloween. As I’ve written before, this was always a fun, and candy-induced episode, as October got us ready for Thanksgiving, and the turning of weeks to Christmas. Sure, we dressed up as lots of things. My brother Ray was good at using “monster makeup,” and turning our faces from cute little white kids into scary visions in the night. Sort of. One time we found the directions on how to make someone look like a mummy. We took cotton balls, all stretched out, and dipped them in Karo syrup, and applied them to (my) face. I don’t know if you can imagine the feeling of cotton balls and drippy syrup, but once it was all applied, they then took gruesome green tempera paint, and painted the cotton balls. A bit of dark makeup around the eyes, and then wrapped up in strips of white sheets, and I looked like I came straight out of Egypt. Of course, I never wore that to go trick or treating – I had the typical struggle with “strip slip,” as a few steps would send the wrappings southward. With only wearing underwear, it was an occupational hazard.
But we always had fun, and anticipated a fun and safe time. We always got more candy than we could eat, and had an evening of stories and episodes about how someone’s paper bag dragged too long on the asphalt, and ended up tearing a hole, or how somebody slipped and fell on the damp yards as we hurried from one house to another. And when we went to bed, it was with joy and laughter, and a full tummy.
Much of that still happens each Halloween. It’s not the sinister, evil, demon-infested dark celebration that some would intend it to be. It’s a fun time of dressing up and asking your neighbors for some sweets. However, it does appear around the edges that we are sliding toward the horrible in many places. Younger and younger children, especially boys, are captivated by simply terrible masks and outfits, as though there are no real boundaries on how gruesome or bad you can look. With a hundred channels to tune into, instead of the two or three we had, it’s pretty easy to find images that no one should see, especially our children. Every time we desensitize, or validate horrible and gruesome, we steal part of our kids’ childhood and innocence. I fear for what might happen in the generation to follow.
So my hope this evening is for the “good” Halloween fun, and not the horrible one. That will only happen when mature and loving adults act intentionally to shut down the terrible part, and save our young ones – and ourselves – from things we can’t unsee, or can’t unhear, or can’t unexperience, so that part of our joyful life disappears. Let’s do better. Let’s intentionally live for the highest, instead of the worst. Happy Halloween, and be safe…
Word for the Day: garrulous. You’ve probably heard this word before, but it is one we rarely use. Pronounced GAIR-uh-lus. It is a quality of a person, or perhaps a particular trait. The word comes of course from Latin, garrire, which means “to chatter.” Say the Latin out loud, and it sounds like a word that never ends. I like the definition of “chatter.” It reminds me of the black birds roosting in our spruce trees each late spring. After a while, you just want them to shut up! I remember often as a superintendent of a district, how when I attended a meeting – and I attended thousands of them – more often than not, someone with a garrulous tendency would corner me, and basically tell me everything they knew, and every story about their life they could remember. If somehow they would have been the least bit interesting, I would survive, but that rarely the case.
Garrulous means giving oneself over to rambling, or excessive talk. Where a few words would work, a thousand are inserted instead. It’s the eyes-glazed-over, looking around for an escape hatch, or being unsuccessful in extracting yourself from the prison cell of someone’s opinion. I respect you and your opinion, but now it’s time to shush. Please – just shush…
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.