When I was a kid on Halloween, my main concern was harvesting as much candy as I could. My brother and I canvassed our neighborhood as far as time permitted to fill our bags to the brim. Then we’d head home and begin to gorge.
Maybe it’s different these days.
Over the past couple weeks, we brought our snakes and skulls to Estrella Mountain Regional Park and White Tank Mountain Regional Park northwest of Phoenix to volunteer at their Halloween parties. Most of the stations that kids would visit passed out candy. Last year we had a bag at our table as well, but this year we weren’t given any, and we didn’t realize it until we saw the onslaught of trick-or-treaters headed our way in the dark.
I worried that these little goblins might be disappointed to arrive at our station and not be offered a treat. But as we became involved showing them the skulls and letting them touch a snake, that fear began to fade, although it did linger in my mind.
After the first few groups passed through without showing disappointment for the lack of handouts, I mentioned to one of the mothers in the next group that I was sorry we didn’t have anything to give the kids. She shook her head. “You have something far more valuable than candy,” she said. “You give them knowledge!”
Knowledge! Thinking back to my own childhood, I wondered if I would have been satisfied on Halloween with less than something sweet I could stuff in my mouth. I marveled at the interest shown by the children, as well as the attentiveness given by their parents. No one asked for anything other than the knowledge we offered, and they departed apparently satisfied with what they had experienced.
For all the adverse remarks we hear about kids and the world today, this experience bolstered our hope for the future. “Knowledge is still valued,” I told Chuck, “and maybe now more than ever!”