Okay, I admit it. I was Zorro. I know masked heroes are supposed to keep their secret identities on the down-low, but I have to share my story. The Halloween of my third grade year I was obsessed with Zorro. He was like Batman on horseback. Dapper gentleman Don Diego by day, mysterious, black-clad vigilante by night.
That was pretty much how I rolled.
My Halloween identity that year was a no brainer. Now all I had to do was get my hands on a costume. Here’s where it got a little tricky. Every year of my life up to this point my mom had bought my costumes at the TG&Y store. For those of you who don’t remember, TG&Y was like a tiny Wal-Mart without the greeters and everyday low prices. But as amazing as TG&Y was, they did not have a Zorro costume, which meant my parents got stuck making me one.
My mom bought a pack of black dye for thirty-five cents and sacrificed a bed sheet for my cape. She didn’t read the instructions so our washing machine got dyed permanently black. Totally worth it. My dad jumped in and did his part by spray painting a straw cowboy hat in our back yard. I still think of it every time I smell the sweet odor of aerosol paint.
For the actual costume, they grabbed a black jacket and a pair of running pants out of my closet. Unfortunately, the pants had a thin, white stripe down the leg which I knew would surely get me killed during any night time raids. My jacket had a colorful emblem on the pocket that might as well have been a bulls-eye.
I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t care. Sure, I had some color issues on the pants and jacket, and the hat was closer to the Marlboro Man than the Spanish gaucho style worn by Don Diego. But, hey, I had to give my parents an A for effort. Besides, the attitude makes the outfit, right?
So I marched into my Milltown Elementary School Halloween party at the end of October feeling like the most dangerous Zorro the world had ever seen. For about five minutes.
Then, I saw the other Zorro. He was a fifth grader, and his costume was dead on. Spanish gaucho hat. No dumb white stripes on his pants. Even his plastic sword was cooler than mine. I went from hero to zero in a heartbeat.
There was no use pretending. I was the second rate Zorro and everyone knew it.
You ever feel like that? Your day is going great until you run into someone younger, thinner or cuter. Suddenly you feel like a leftover. You love your new job until your friend tells you about his. Now yours doesn’t sound so hot. Your car, your spouse and your kids all look worse when compared with the 5th grade Zorros of the world.
Comparing your life to others always magnifies your flaws. It distorts reality, masks the good, and robs you of gratitude and joy.
Maybe that’s why the Bible is so big on contentment. It talks about discovering the secret of being content in each and every situation. That secret is believing that our worth, our identity and our provision comes from the hand of a God who loves us. When we anchor our lives into that bedrock, we give up the comparison game.
It frees us to enjoy being who God made us to be, white striped pants and all.
You know, not long after the Halloween party, I forgot all about that other Zorro. I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I had work to do. I’m proud to say that not a single trick-or-treater got attacked by banditos that night thanks to me. I guess that’s what happens when you stop worrying about how you stack up next to the other guy and just get down to the business of being yourself.