I live in a beautiful, old neighborhood and I’m learning to become an intentional neighbor. It’s not easy. I often worry that I may come across as overly interested, in that awkward zone of, “You don’t know me that well so why are you at my door with cookies, crazy lady?” It’s as if I’m afraid to be kind. Well, yes. I am. Why? Because we’ve become very sensitive to a lot of things, often with good reason. Bad stuff happens. Weird stuff happens. I don’t want to be lumped into either space so it’s easier to stay away. But I want to be a neighbor; I want to love those who live around me in tangible ways.
In addition to wrestling with neighbor notions, I also find it hard to be spontaneous even though many (perhaps most) of my ideas are spontaneous. In other words, I very often think of something that needs to be done RIGHT NOW or not at all. Perfectionism squashes a bunch of these ideas before I can even attempt them. Why? Because they may fail. We don’t want failure. Goodbye great idea!
Today, neighbor notions met spontaneous ideas. There wasn’t much time to think things through to the degree I’m comfortable with (hence the spontaneity)–I just had to get moving. I figured God would stop me along the way.
Presumptuous, huh? Maybe. Thing is, I was talking to Him the whole time and I’d been talking to Him earlier this week asking what we should do for tonight, Halloween.
I grew up with a clear understanding that while the dead are dead (and, therefore, can’t scare me) evil is real, the devil is real, and should not be taken lightly. I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween in terms of dressing up as anything that resembled various manifestations of evil or roaming the streets in search of candy. Roaming sounds so dramatic but I’m keeping it.
In my early school years, I attended a school run by the British government so we celebrated Guy Fawkes Day on November 5 via food and a fashion show for which students could dress up as anything. One year my mum sewed a carrot costume for me–amazing.
In later years, while attending a Christian school, I spent Halloween walking through neighborhoods, collecting canned goods for Thanksgiving baskets or things of that sort. I think we got apple cider, hot chocolate and donuts upon our return to school with all the food loot. It was fun.
Being an adult and living on my own have changed things. I don’t have automatic options that someone else has planned ahead of time for me to simply step into. Instead, it seems I’m calling all the shots. And this afternoon, when I remembered that we had zero candy, I figured I’d go buy some. But then I stopped that thought because I don’t like candy and I don’t like the idea of giving it out to children. Okay, so there are some candy type things I’ll enjoy from time to time and my reason for not indulging is a mix of “that’s too much sugar” + “I’m not a huge sweet tooth” + “I don’t want to have a hand in rotting some child’s teeth” + “whenever I think of trick or treating, I get this really gross visual of a child who has eaten a load of candy”. Plus, it was still Sabbath and doing something I think is neither great nor necessary during Sabbath hours wasn’t sitting well with me.
So what could I do? I didn’t want the evening to turn into a hassle, a stressor. I also didn’t want the two kids who came by last year and received leftover pink-wrapped “it’s a girl” mints to just get a granola bar and a clementine. I thought that was lame. I’d rather have nothing. Yes, even though I’ve been very anti-Halloween, I wanted to give a gift.
The desire kicked in strong. So I began to pray. Help! And I said that if they came to the door and whatever I was doing wasn’t ready, then I would know that this spontaneous act was all for me somehow, not for the kiddos…and that would be fine. I wouldn’t spend the evening mentally beating myself up.
Playdoh surfaced as a simple child-friendly giveaway. I already had little bags to put it in and twisty ties to close them up. The recipe was so easy. Within 30 minutes, I had playdoh of different colors. And the process was relaxing because I had all the ingredients and my tactile nature was fully engaged. I also had the perfect container for all the goodies, little green buckets from my daughter’s birthday party, buckets I’m sure I could find some use for someday and guess what, today was that day. The playdoh, granola bar, clementine and a little juice box fit perfectly.
Since it wasn’t store bought, I figured writing a quick letter with the playdoh recipe included would be helpful to the parents. I also gave them my number in case they had questions.
For as quickly as these ideas were coming to my head, I figured God must be helping me. Helping me help kids celebrate Halloween? Hehe. I’m sure some would think of it that way. But I think of it as being a neighbor, giving something intentionally and personally with no strings attached instead of pretending not to be home or giving something halfheartedly.
Just as soon as package #1 was ready, a child was at the door while her parents stood barely on the driveway. Her little brother ran over to join her and waited patiently for package #2. As I placed it in his large candy transporter (quietly amazed at and thankful for it’s perfectly sized opening) he yelled back to his waiting family, “I got a bucket!!”
Who knows what next year will bring. This is simply today. I believe I did what I was supposed to do. I can’t always say that.