“All this talk about democracy and bringing the country together and reducing political divisiveness doesn’t mean a d--- thing if we’re not willing to do something.”
Secretary Leon Panetta, San Joaquin Valley Town Hall, Saroyan Theater, Oct. 19
I propose we take Panetta’s advice and do something to move away from divisiveness and toward a stronger democracy: Hand out candy on Halloween.
I’ve noticed a Halloween trend. Some families and kids are traveling outside their own neighborhoods to go trick-or-treating. This means that some neighborhoods get more than their share of costumed visitors, and other neighborhoods get just a few. While some have grumbled about this pattern, I propose we embrace this opportunity to do something remarkable on Halloween – reach out in an outpouring of hospitality to both our neighbors and strangers.
I want to start by talking to those who might be tempted to darken their houses and close the blinds. If your neighborhood is one that attracts many Halloween visitors, buy some candy, turn on your porch light, and smile when you answer the door. Use this opportunity to be an ambassador and offer visiting families an experience that is positive and welcoming.
This idea is even encouraged in the New Testament book of Hebrews: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers ...” (Hebrews 13:2). This simple gesture could instill feelings of goodwill and create memories for children that transcend differences of race, religion, economic circumstances and ZIP code.
In an age where people are more disconnected and isolated than ever, on Oct. 31, we can denounce divisiveness and declare that our community will be known for how it comes together – not just with people who look like us, think like us or live near us – but with the global tapestry of people who make up our cities.
The trend of families traveling outside their own neighborhoods is an added bonus – the perfect chance for us to interact with people we may not otherwise have known.
I’ve seen many neighborhoods up close, and I understand the complex issues contributing to this evolution in Halloween protocol. I’ve walked neighborhoods that do not seem safe – no sidewalks or broken sidewalks, weeds and trash, poor lighting, security gates and fences, aggressive front-yard dogs, dangerous debris and troubled people wandering the streets.
Some areas have one of these issues, and some have all of them. There are other neighborhoods with clean, well-lit streets, landscaped yards and accessible front doors. These disparities are the current reality. While I am encouraged by restoration efforts to bring all neighborhoods up to what I like to call “trick-or-treat standards,” it is understandable that families who live in currently distressed areas want their children to have fun and participate in Halloween.
To those traveling to another neighborhood on Halloween night, be considerate about where you park and how you dispose of trash. Please supervise your children and drive slowly.
For those greeting many costumed strangers, an evening of answering the door will send you to bed feeling good – because you were a kind and generous representative of your household.
Most importantly, we can all wake up on Nov. 1, one week before the election, knowing we’ve done something to reach out to one another, bring our communities together, and yes, even strengthen our democracy.
Lori Clanton believes that the power to transform a city resides in regular people taking creative action. In addition to her work in community philanthropy and communications, Lori is the founder of Fresno Mindfulness Walks. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.