A young girl who was dressed in a frog costume toddled toward my house. Her eyes were wide, her gait uncertain. Her parents said it was her first time trick-or-treating.
I smiled, told her I liked her costume, and plopped a gift into her bag. She looked down at the snack-sized candy bar and then back up at me, unsure how to respond. Her parents told her to say “thank you.” She did. And off she toddled, trying to wrap her brain around this unusual night.
This isn’t how things normally work in our world.
People don’t usually dress as frogs. And people don’t usually smile at every stranger who comes their way and give them something with no strings attached.
The coolest part of Halloween – besides the costumes and the decorations and the pumpkins – is how we set aside a night to celebrate unconditional sharing.
We give to all who ask of us. Everyone who asks, receives. Nobody is turned away. We don’t judge whether someone is more deserving or less worthy. No one asks a child what they’ve done to earn their treat – well, I hope not, anyway!
A reminder of grace
Everything is freely given – no fine print, no hidden agenda. Everyone is accepted and welcomed, regardless whether they’re a young child in a frog outfit or a teenager who has outgrown costumes but still likes to get treats.
This is us at our best. This is what we are called to be all the time.
It’s too bad that we don’t operate this way more often. Instead, we waste so much energy creating standards of worthiness and judging who meets them and who falls short. We reward those who meet our arbitrary measures and deny those whom we deem unfit.
I know one person who doesn’t celebrate Halloween because they think that handing out candy teaches young people they can get something for nothing. They see it as a bad life lesson.
I see it as a reminder of grace.
Grace can’t be earned or owned, only accepted and shared. Our next breath, our next heartbeat, our next moment of love is handed to us with absolutely no merit on our part. They’re just plopped right into our bag.
How do we react? We look at the gifts, and then we turn toward the Giver and we say, “Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” And then we go and do the same.
The universe has bumped along for billions of years without you and me, and it’s done quite well without us, to be honest. And then, we got this unearned moment of grace, We were invited to join the party — along with everyone else — and enjoy all that it entails.
Filling each other’s bags
Yes, each of us is a divine charity case. And yes, there’s part of us that hates that. We’d rather live with the illusion that we merit and deserve all we have. We prefer the delusion that we’re self-sufficient and we somehow earned what we’ve actually been handed.
Grace reminds us otherwise.
I remember the times I’ve been the one wearing a costume and opening the trick-or-treat bag on someone’s doorstep. I recall bundling up against the October chill in Cleveland and going door-to-door to experience the kindness of strangers.
I can still feel those warm moments of giving and receiving.
I also remember the many times in my life when I was running low on important things – hope, joy, love, money, you name it – and someone came along and filled my bag again. Often, it was a stranger.
That’s how this works. We give and receive, enclosing a bit of grace inside each wrapper.
Every day begins with more gifts plopped into our bags — another breath, another heartbeat, more possibilities and opportunities to give and receive love. Then for the rest of the day, it’s our turn to give generously and joyfully. And to receive thankfully and appreciatively.
To fill each other’s bags until they’re overflowing.