When I was ten years old, I went trick-or-treating as Count Dracula and met the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween. Here was the problem. I lived in Milltown and had cousins who lived in nearby Marengo. Since we wanted to trick-or-treat together, we planned to hit Milltown first and then head to their neck of the woods. Makes sense, right?
Of course it does, unless your heart is the size of a piece of candy corn.
About three houses in, we ran into trouble. An old man answered the door. We offered our obligatory “trick-or-treat,” and he started in with the usual banter. “Oh my, what scary costumes. What are you supposed to be?”
I wanted to say, “Hmm, let’s see. Black cape. Widow’s peak. Vampire fangs. Think about it.” But I wanted candy so I answered the question.
Then he asked what part of town we lived in. He’d already given my cousins their candy, but I was still waiting for mine. So I explained where I lived, and they told him they lived in Marengo.
“Marengo? Marengo? What are you doing trick-or-treating over here? “
You would have thought they’d crossed the Berlin wall. The old man started getting loud and gesturing wildly. “The way I see it,” he said, “Marengo has enough candy for their kids, and here in Milltown we have enough for ours.”
For a minute I seriously thought he was either going to take back their candy or punch us. Then he practically threw some bubble gum in my face and slammed his door.
Apparently we’d touched a nerve. I’m guessing on some previous Halloween a bunch of biker hooligans from Marengo must have pulled up to his house and taken all of his candy, leaving the poor children of Milltown to go without for the rest of the night. Or maybe when he was a kid, a marauding band of Marengo Cavemen egged his dad’s car.
Then again, maybe he was just grumpy. Whatever the case, I remember the guy had plenty of candy, just not much generosity. I never forgot old Ebenezer, and I vowed when I grew up, I’d give kids so much candy it would be coming out of their noses.
Fast forward fifteen years, I was married with no kids of my own yet, and when Halloween rolled around, I kept my vow. When trick-or-treaters showed up at the Byerly house, they got some serious candy. I’m not talking about that lame taffy that comes in the orange and black paper. No I’m talking chocolate – Hershey’s miniatures, boxes of Nerds, all the good stuff. And lots of it.
Instead of giving out one or two pieces like everyone else, I would drop fistfuls of candy into their buckets. The look on their faces? Priceless. Totally blown away. None of them could believe they were getting so much candy from a single house.
My wife couldn’t believe it either. Maybe that’s why I’m not allowed to buy candy any more.
But the point is, for those first few years I lavished candy on those kids, absolutely drenched them in it, and it was a blast.
It makes me think of what one of Jesus’ friends, John, said about God’s love. He wrote, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on, that we should be called children of God and that is what we are.”
To be honest, most of are like that old man, and we take care of our own. We love people who are like us and close to us, and if we give at all, we give to those we’re obliged to give to.
But God? He’s a lavisher.
He doesn’t care where people are from or what they’ve done. He doesn’t care about their religious or cultural background. He doesn’t care about their police record or their perfect attendance in Sunday School. He just cares about people, and He gives generously to all.
When it comes to His love, God is not a candy miser. He’s a back the dump truck up to your bucket and bury you with candy kind of God.
This week maybe we should follow God’s lead and reach out to people who are different than us, people who are outside our usual circles, and find some way to lavish them with love and blessing.
At the very least, if a young vampire and his two cousins come to your door this Halloween, just give them some candy and don’t ask any questions. Trust me. It’s the right thing to do.