A ‘Haunting’ Lesson From A Halloween Past

The other night I was reminiscing with my wife about a Halloween night of my childhood. I don’t recall exactly what age I was, but I know I was around ten. As kids we normally traveled in small packs on Halloween night, more than two but less than six. On this night I had pared up with a few friends. For some reason, of which I never understood as a kid, a friend of mine was carrying around a UNICEF “Trick-or-Treat” donation box. In retrospect, I’m sure his mother put him up to it. Back then we were always being put on a guilt trip about starving kids in Africa whenever we didn’t clean our plates. Now the acronym UNICEF stands for “United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund”. This fund was started in 1946 as an emergency fund to provide food and health care for children devastated by World War II. It’s still in existence today, and I found out that UNICEF still hands out their small orange “Trick-or-Treat” boxes for Halloween. To date these small oranges boxes carried around by children on Halloween, have raised over $220 million dollars in the United States and Canada. That’s a lot of pennies, nickels, and quarters! Anyway, on all “door approaches”, we had learned to cutely smile and say the standard “trick or treat” with enthusiasm. On this night all of us boys had dressed up as “wounded” soldiers. I know I had used a lot of my mothers red nail polish to gain that gritty look.

One door we knocked on that night left an impression on me that I have never forgotten. A middle-aged man opened the door and as he handed out the candy, my friend carrying the UNICEF box, said, “Trick or treat, collecting for UNICEF!” He then held up his bag in one hand and his box in the other. The man gave a stern look. He then rather forcefully said, “Look, you either get candy, or money for UNICEF. If you are collecting for UNICEF you shouldn’t be asking for candy!” All of us “wounded soldiers” stood frozen. My “wounded” friend had never been faced with such a proposal. I remember feeling scared. My friend stood for a moment with both the bag and the box in his outstretched arms. I thought I saw his bag of candy start to drop, but it quickly lifted higher as the UNICEF box dropped to his side. The man dropped some candy in his bag and shut the door. No one said anything as we walked to the next house, but I noted that the UNICEF box never reappeared in my “wounded” friends hands for the rest of the night. He had put it into this candy bag.

Funny how you remember such small things! And how such things can leave an imprint on your life. I don’t recall the image of what that man looked like, but the memory of the house and incident is vivid in my mind. I’m not sure why a “grown-up” man would put a small kid through that kind of ordeal. But he did. Maybe it was a bad day for him. But, I do know that decisions of putting others before ourselves can be tough, and how we handle those decisions has an impact on what type of person we are, and what type of person we become. The standard for children is much less than what it is for us as adults. The Lord has been clear on the importance of how we treat others. He said:

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:21)

“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also” (Matthew 5:20) and of course the commandment He gave to “love thy neighbor as thyself” is a fundamental principle of Christianity. During His ministry the Lord repeated this theme over and over for a reason. Because when we are faced daily with the decision to collect for ourselves or for  UNICEF, the decision is not so easy.  My “wounded” friend found out the hard way that night how difficult a decision that can be.   And as you can tell, I was left with a lasting memory and lesson from a Halloween door approach that is still “haunting” me.


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