On Hallowe'en this year, I think we had a grand total of 20 kids come by: understandable, since our house and maybe only four others were shelling out, front steps lit up and jack-o-lanterns glowing.
When I was younger, we wouldn't have ventured down a mostly darkened street, either. Bonus is more candy for the adults in the house, but that was small consolation for the lack of pillowcases to help fill, and little ones to coo over. Our own younger children kept their trick-or-treating to the streets where there was more action.
I know that there are those who, for reasons of conscience, don't participate in the revelry. This is not addressed to them.
This is addressed to neighbourhood folks (and you all have some like this in your own neighbourhoods) whose own little ones went trick-or-treating in years gone by, and who have decided that it is just not something they will do any longer, citing, I dunno, kids who don't say thank you (really, even the most well-raised and polite children are capable of forgetting this in the heat of the moment), or kids who come from out of the neighbourhood with parents who carry what doesn't fit into their plastic pumpkin bucket (but why shouldn't those who live in less privileged areas start early and collect all the goodies they can? Where's the harm in that? Surely nothing that moderate consumption and a toothbrush won't fix).
This is also addressed to young adults who have forgotten about the fun they once had, and have chosen not to pay it forward.
Hallowe'en was always more than a bit of harmless fun (though it is that, too). It was a neighbourhood happening, a kind of Take Back the Night for kids, when they had a chance to run around after dark, learn to be a little braver, and to meet the neighbours, who, by their participation, made the community safer for its youngest members, and took on some responsibility for making sure things went off smoothly by driving slowly and leaving the porch lights on.
It was even a time to get the generations together. I remember my siblings, cousins and I being driven to my great-grandmother's seniors' building, where the residents (some of whom dressed up, too) came down to the lobby to enjoy the kids.
Now it seems to be happening only in increasingly smaller pockets of larger areas. I'm sure people aren't avoiding Hallowe'en because of vandalism, not on our block. In 12 years of shelling out in Hamilton, our house has not had one pumpkin smashed, not one tree TP'ed.
Hallowe'en is a relatively painless way to contribute to a larger social event. You don't have to raise a barn, or plan a block party, or even open up your home to anyone - a bag of cheap suckers and an outside light, and you're good to go.
What does it say about community spirit when those who have the means to do this refuse to bother?
And what does this say about neighbourhood safety when more and more folks, on a night when they know there will be children running around outdoors, turn off all their outside lights and go down to the basement to watch television? Or make a point of leaving the area by 5:30 PM, early enough that they won't have to encounter a toddler in pumpkin costume?
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