When I moved to St. Louis so many years ago, one thing that really fascinated me was Halloween. You see, in St. Louis when children go trick-or-treating, they are asked to tell a joke before they receive their candy. Now perhaps this was true in Ohio, where I grew up, but I don’t remember having to tell jokes to receive candy on Halloween. So, this seems very “St. Louis” to me.
The thing about asking a child to tell a joke, is that joke-telling becomes the real treat for the adults opening the doors. You have the children who have spent days, maybe weeks, figuring out their “best” jokes. You can tell these kiddos right away, they launch into joke telling before the door is even open, sometimes giving you a few jokes if you laugh hard enough.
You have the shy children, who have the joke memorized and will look at the ground as they tell it to you, so that you have to strain to hear the punch line. But, they are brave as they tell a joke to a perfect stranger. You have the toddlers, not even speaking in sentences yet, so the parents tell the jokes for them. They may be little, but their eyes light up when they receive the candy!
You have the bigger children, who might be tempted to share a bit of an off-color joke. Not at my house, for if they do I then ask them if they can’t give me a good, clean joke. When a good, clean joke is offered they may find an extra bit of candy in their bags.
The thing about Halloween in St. Louis is that it is an opportunity to engage, to be present to those littles faces on a day when they are truly shining. Their pride in their costumes and why they chose it for that year. Their exuberance in running from house to house, simply for candy. Their knowledge that somehow, today is different. They not only get candy, they get to eat lots of it! Oh happy day!
You know what I see? I see their radiance. I see these beautiful little people filled with life and energy. I see their joyous laugh at their own jokes. I see the bravery in a shy child. I see the smiles of the toddlers. I see such spirit in them all.
What will you see this evening? Amidst the princesses and storm troopers and witches and pumpkins, look for the radiance, it will be shining brightly tonight, joke or no joke!