For a few years, I had the privilege of participating in a church’s Trunk-or-Treat program for kids in a low-income neighborhood in Cincinnati. Folks bring their cars and vans to the church’s parking lot and decorate them. They hand out candy to the kids, who come dressed in their costumes. There’s food and hot chocolate and books, all for free.
One little boy who attended regularly has no legs, so his mom pushed him around the parking lot in a wheelchair. He was dressed like a ninja and if you asked why, he’d go on and on about how much he loves ninjas and his costume. And how much he loves Halloween.
The kids would make the route around the parking lot a few times with their bags open, getting another piece of candy and a little bit of love at each stop. Everyone enjoyed the giving and the getting.
Maybe that’s what I love most about Halloween.
We celebrate a day of giving with no strings attached to anyone who shows up at our trunk or our doorstep. And we give with a smile and a kind word: “Hey, you make a great ninja!”
Anyone who asks receives. No one is judged as more deserving or less deserving than anyone else. Nobody wonders if the kids have earned their candy. We just give.
And those toting the bags are appreciative, most of them saying thanks right away, although a few bashful ones have to be prodded by parents. The givers and the receivers enjoy this unqualified sharing.
Isn’t this what we are supposed to be about all the time?
The trick, if you will, is to keep giving and receiving after the final piece of candy has been handed out.
We hear stories about those who go to a shop or restaurant and pay forward a cup of coffee or a meal, finding creative ways to give. We watch people stop to give money, a bottle of water and a smile to the homeless person on the street corner. Or maybe they take them to a restaurant to share a meal and get to know them a little bit.
Along with the food, they put a little bit of themselves in the exchange — the greatest gift anyone can give.
If we’re paying attention, we see so many people around us with empty bags.
We also recognize that each of us has an empty bag at so many moments in our lives, those times when we‘re running low on joy, love, hope. And maybe food and other things, too. We open our bags and hope that someone recognizes our emptiness and responds with love.
Each day begins with the greatest gift plopped into each of our bags — another day of life, freely and joyfully given. And then for the rest of the day, it’s our turn to give freely and joyfully, over and over. And to receive thankfully and joyfully, over and over.
To fill each other’s bags until they’re overflowing.