(I ran across a Halloween essay I wrote in 2009 – seemed like a good day to dust it off and re-post).
My favorite part of Halloween in Columbia, Missouri, is trick-or-treating downtown. And the highlight of the evening is always a visit to Gotcha.
Gotcha is a costume shop in downtown Columbia, owned and operated by a gentleman I’ve only known as “Arrow,” along with his family. As one might imagine, the shop is extremely busy on October 31, as college students and others are completing their outfits for upcoming parties. Here’s the scene:
We walk into Gotcha, fighting the crowd a little to get in the door.
Arrow yells, “Make way for the important people!” in reference to Blake and Madilyn as he makes the 30 paying customers in line scoot back two steps to make room.
“Hey, it’s Bumblebee and Hermione!” (note: the kids were mis-identified as a Power Ranger and Harry Potter in most of the other stores) “Come get some candy! Happy Halloween!”
At this point it is important to define “candy” the way Gotcha defines “candy.” We are not talking about Tootsie Rolls or Smarties or half-bite-snack-size Snickers. The kids’ eyes opened wide as they giggled at a basket full of KING SIZE CANDY BARS. Blake grabbed M&Ms. Madilyn beamed at her choice: a 4-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
In a world where kids (particularly once they grow past the cute baby and toddler stages) are typically vilified, ignored, or – at best – tolerated, my children were celebrated as the IMPORTANT PEOPLE by a store owner who surely had much more important things to do on his most profitable day of the year. For 2 minutes they were the stars of the show.
This “let the children come to me” selflessness surprised and overwhelmed me. But why? Had I previously thought (and been taught) that love and acceptance were reserved for more “Christian” environments like home or church? Am I surprised that my kids are cared for in a downtown costume shop? Is the lavish generosity of chocolate somehow different than from God’s gift of grace?
I’m not sure about answers to any of those questions, but I do know this: My children were adored this Halloween, not at a church-sponsored, anti-ghoul Fall Festival, but among the plastic vomit, fake blood, and half-drunk-half-naked college students at Gotcha. It was unconditional love at its finest, and I’m grateful for it.