Pennies & Jolly Ranchers.

There was an older lady that lived up the street from us and we always knew what to expect from her, although we’d constantly hoped for more. She would answer the door and we’d say drably, “Trick or treat.” Year after year, with a silver serving tray held in both of her bony hands, she would present the pennies laid out on it for our taking, “…but only one!” she would say, as if we knew the value she held in them. To us, the pennies were of little worth. With that lone penny we could ride the mechanical brown horse at the grocery store, but that was about it. We mainly stopped at the house to appease the old woman – she always enjoyed seeing us at her doorstep asking for Halloween candy, or selling candy bars or magazine subscriptions for baseball and boy scouts.

Living in the suburbs of Denver, we typically expected it to snow on Halloween – we knew it would be really cold for sure, so we would put on our long underwear (and sometimes snow pants, gloves, and coat), and head out. There was usually a group of us kids – my brother, me and two or three other neighborhood kids. We’d go from house to house yelling “Trick or Treat!” Many of the houses we went to were good to us – loads of small candy bars, jolly ranchers, and tootsie rolls of various flavors (usually hardened leftovers from the year before). The idea that Halloween was somehow wrapped around pagan rituals was foreign to us. It was a night to get dressed up in creatively made costumes and ask the neighbors for candy.

Creatively is the key word here because we never had the money to spend buying a costume with the likeness of GI Joe, the Thundercats, or any other number of Saturday morning cartoon characters. My brother and I typically went as hobos (politically incorrect now, but it worked then), clowns, or army men. Sometimes we’d cover boxes with aluminum foil, put some knobs and buttons on it, and use dryer vent tubing as arms and legs for a robot from the future. We were creative…or my parents were as they tried to make the best out of our situation by talking us down from buying costumes and assuring us that an old dress coat, a handkerchief on a stick, and some grease paint would make us the best looking hobos in town and everyone would love it.

I’m not really sure now who I was trying to impress. The day of Halloween (or if it was on the weekend, then Friday) we would get to wear our costumes at school all day. I always worried that the other kids in school would be in awesome costumes – the ones that I saw advertised on TV or in the mall. Really scary masks like Jason Voohres, Freddy Kruger gloves, and fake bloody cuts that looked real. I was afraid that my hobo or clown costume just wouldn’t be in the same rank as everyone else’s.

And one fact always came through. The other kids, for the most part, had homemade costumes just like mine. Some parents sprang for the painted vinyl bodysuit and flimsy plastic mask with eye holes cut out, but those were the privileged kids and honestly we weren’t too jealous of their costumes. They looked like they could pass, but everyone knew the costumes were horrible and fake and…bought. Our costumes were an entire package – as a hobo we’d carry a can of beans, have dirt rubbed onto our cheeks and our hair messy and unkempt as we wore clothes too big for our little bodies. We didn’t have a fakeness or cheesiness on Halloween – we lived the part the whole day. For that one day of the year we were hobos wandering the streets for food and candy, or clowns looking for a good laugh, or army men protecting the country from the Russians (yup, I’m that old).

I’m realizing that Christianity isn’t a costume you can put on and take off at will. For many years I’ve done this and it’s difficult to admit that’s who I was. I’ve had the good natured, happy, republican, loving Christian costume on for too long. The more I understand who I am and who God is, the more difficult it is to pin it down to a specific set of definitions. God is loving but vengeful. God is happy but capable of being angered. He’s republican and democrat…and independent and green party…and non-political. The more I learn about God and who He really is, the more I’m surprised by what I discover.

As I move forward in my life and begin again to live life as a Christian – the real deal – I realize the more difficult it’s going to be, that’s for sure. No more costumes or makeup or masks. God calls me to be either hot or cold. I’m either for him or not. He despises fakes and will spit them out…and I don’t want to be spit out. Dig deep and find out who you are as a Christian, because this is your whole being – this, this belief in Jesus and God above everything else, is who you’re supposed to be.

much love. sheth.

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