Full-Size Candy Bars

By Rick Bundschuh, Kauai Christian Fellowship, Poipu, Hawaii
from his book Don’t Rock the Boat, Capsize It

I think it is the solemn duty of all pastors to pass out full-size candy bars on Halloween.

Yes, I know that for many Christian folk this holiday is one born out of the depths of hell, and we must protect our children from it by wearing our costumes and passing out our candy in the safe confines of the church building. But in spite of the best efforts of our alarmists, it seems nobody has gotten the message about the evils of Halloween to the droves of grade school vampires, Spider-men, fairies, and witches who, with bulging pillowcase in hand, tromp up our porch steps on the thirty-first of October.

I live in an actual neighborhood. Unlike some anonymous and sterile suburbs, ours is an old-fashioned kind of place where people actually are acquainted with each other and give a wave when they drive by. Our children co-mingle for water balloon fights, birthday parties, and bicycle expeditions to the end of the block.

Most everyone around knows that I am a professional religious guy—a pastor, reverend, priest, voodoo cult leader, or something like that. Out here in the neighborhood I’m never asked to give a message—I am the message. My integrity and authenticity are judged in a different way here than church folks judge it.

So if I stop and jump out of my car to retrieve a neighbor’s empty errant trash can from the street where it’s been blown on trash day, I give a message. If my kids trudge off to the same public school as the rest of the lads, I give a message. If at school I volunteer to chaperone field trips or be one of the guest classroom speakers on “Career Day,” I give a message.

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We Christians give messages all the time. Sometimes they are not very good ones.
There was a family in the neighborhood who always made Halloween a goofy, fun, quasi-spooky time by turning their front yard into a maze of tombstones, spider webs, black lights, blazing jack-o’-lanterns complete with cheesy-creepy sound-effects CDs. Their efforts were guaranteed to terrify any kid under the age of three. For everyone else the haunted house decor just provided a bit of sea¬sonal excitement and joy.
Then the mom became a Christian, and all fun ceased.

Her kids, to their horror, were forbidden to decorate or go trick-or-treating. Instead, they were forced to suit up as Bible characters and be dragged off to a Harvest Party instead. The house that had once been festive and ablaze with creepy fun would remain dark and abandoned on Halloween. The rest of the neighborhood didn’t really know what had happened, only that the woman had “gotten religion.” And the results were no fun. Her family would no longer play the game everyone had so enjoyed.

The terrible thing about this turn of events was that we (my newly converted neighbor and I) were supposed to be on the same side of all the issues—and we were not. The alarm inside me was starting to go off. I recalled that when I was a kid roaming the neighborhood on Halloween, there was a sense of judging the heart of the occupants by their willingness to play the game well. If the wife answered the door she would coo about the cute pirates (Cute pirates? Who ever heard of a cute pirate?). If the man answered the door he would mumble something, dole out the demanded bribe, and get back to his sports program.

This was the norm. But among those playing the game there was always someone in the territory (all kids have a territory; it enlarges a bit as they get older but it still remains their domain) who really loved kids. Someone who understood and gave out the currency of a kid’s Halloween kingdom: fun and loot. These were the folks who did one of two things: decorated their homes in a cool, creepy way, or gave out full-size candy bars rather than the little cheapies most people gave. Sometimes, on a rare occasion, they did both things.

Now I’ve got to tell you: kids remember. They remember things for a long time. They spread the word about those who are benevolent to the values of kid-dom. They hold those households in honor. Months after Halloween my childhood gang would bike past a home where full-size Snickers bars had been handed out and someone would say in hushed reverence, “That’s the house where they gave out big candy bars.” And everyone would smile and nod with greedy approval.

So I decided that our family would be that house now that the new Christian lady on the block had put the kabash on Halloween. I wanted kids passing by in the school bus weeks after Halloween to point to our home and say, “Those guys gave out full-size candy bars.” I want the goodwill and praise of children—and their pagan parents. I want them to think of us as fun. (We are.) I want, if even in a backhanded way, to give them the message that God is generous and fun as well.

To give our Halloween presentation a little more finesse, I replaced the outdoor lights with black lights and hid a fog machine under the stair landing with the controls running clandestine into the house. The squeal of delight that came from kids traversing the driveway was part of the payoff. The widened eyes as I held out a cauldron of full-size candy bars was another return on my investment.

But it is knowing that with mere candy bars I may be paving the road for future willingness on the part of these kids and their families to listen to and
experience the reality of Jesus that really gets me excited.

Because kids do remember.

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