Halloween: An Opportunity to Learn “Enough”

I followed a sparkly red lady bug and a plush green dragon down the street.

Nevermind it was October 31. It was about 100 degrees outside, and the plush, fuzzy, cozy costume—which would have been just swell in some chilly autumn Midwestern burrow—was utterly ridiculous in the desert. But dang, he was adorable.

We’d just moved from one desert suburb to another… just a few miles apart, but worlds away. The place we’d been the previous year—with a two-year-old witch and a newborn, who went dressed as a newborn—had proved a little disappointing on Halloween. We only knocked on about 8 doors, and of those, only two actually opened and produced candy. We did find the house on the corner where the garage was open and a block party was in progress. The nieghbors were kind to us, welcomed us, and it was just right for the small size that our kids were at the time. Still, on the trick-or-treat front, it was a little disappointing.

ANYway…we were in a new neighborhood, expecting more of the same non-Hallow-happenings. But nossir, on our new block, trick-or-treat was an EVENT. We had a potluck on the culdesac, took group pics of the kids, and then went trick-or-treating en masse. We were in a group of about 8 kids and twice as many parents. And every street we went down, we encountered another mob of kids and their chaperones. Nearly every house was decorated, every porch light on, every resident proffering a giant bowl of tiny treats.

About 12 houses in, my furry monster was burning up, and both of their buckets were full. The little lady bug could no longer carry her load, and I was picking up the trail of M&M packets accumulating behind her. I announced that, since the buckets were full, we were calling it a night.

That’s when one of the other moms said, “oh, this always happens, so we come prepared.” And she pulled out a handful of empty plastic grocery bags and started handing them around.

So…we did another block of houses.

Don’t get me wrong. It was great fun. And I like digging through the buckets, post-bedtime, and hijacking all the Snickers as much as the next mom. But, come on…at some point, you’ve got to acknowledge that the daggone bucket is FULL, and go home already.

The hoarding mentality is not genetic…it is nurtured by everyday life in a culture of ‘not enough.’ Buy your Christmas stuff in October, cause it might not be there once everybody else starts shopping.  Go and get that new car/computer/smart phone/tv immediately, because if you don’t have it, everyone will know that you are just regular folks, and not at all the rock star that, deep down, you know you deserve to be. Make that circle of friends a little tighter, because if you don’t, somebody who’s even less rock and roll than you might worm their way in.

This fear of ‘not enough’ whispers anxiety in our ear at every turn. It is the real goblin that haunts us, all the year around; it snatches our happiest moments from us and fills us with dread. Sometimes, it even tries to take hold of our children.

Maybe I should explain a bit about why our old neighborhood was such a –pardon me—ghost town, the year before. Because it was 2010. Because in Phoenix—one of the hardest hit housing markets in the country– that meant that every third house on the block was in foreclosure, pre-foreclosure, short sale process, or just plain empty. That’s why we, along with half the city, found ourselves in a different house the following year.

I couldn’t help but feel that, had the big banks gone home when their daggone bucket was full, there would not have quite such an exodus situation. But…they heard that mythic voice of scarcity, and they listened, and they just kept gambling a little bit higher with real people’s livelihood and equity.  Eventually, the handle on that bucket broke, and every last gumball rolled out into the street.

As I hauled a loaded bucket, a full-to-breaking plastic bad, and an exhausted toddler home that night, I was grateful for my new neighborhood, and new neighbors; for doors that actually opened in welcome, for a roof over my family’s head, for healthy kids who could eat candy…and for these fleeting years of glitter and wings and magic.

Out of the overflow, I handed my kid two pieces of candy and I said, “repeat after me: this is enough. This is all we need.”

This story is featured in my book, “More Than Words: 10 Values for the Modern Family.” Buy a copy for yourself, your church group, or your family if you want to have more conversation about values like abundance, compassion, creativity and diversity…just to name a few! 

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  • Cristina Marie O’Mahony

    I struggle with ‘enough’ on a daily basis: is the kitchen clean enough? Yes, 9 pajamas are enough for the baby. Have I prayed enough with my daughters? Am I pretty enough for my husband, it goes on and on and on. And when I stop for a second, I usually hear that little whisper saying, ‘Yes.’ Because I know in my head and in my heart that God is enough; has given me enough (more blessings that I can count); and made me enough in him. But I still struggle.

    On a side note, that small corner house Halloween party is actually a special memory of mine. I remember both your children so well. It was my Tara’s first Halloween and I was so excited to see your new baby. We only met a few times, but just enough for me to still care for you and your family, and to pray for you often. But the dig at the “family group” hurt just a little. Because I helped to organize that because I wanted to meet the people behind the closed garages and try to make a bit more of that neighborhood a neighborhood. Because I wanted to enjoy a holiday with my new baby girl. Because I wanted an opportunity to visit with people I didn’t get to see often, like you. And yes, I asked my friends in my small group to help. Lisa’s kids knew most of the other kids on the block. Rebecca’s husband worked with me and had a grill. Sharee made a wonderful chip dip. There wasn’t any other agenda. In fact, at the time, I was actually working for a different church, a small church plant in Scottsdale. I do look forward to reading that ‘post for another day’, but remember that you are talking about real people, with real hearts and struggles and faith journeys.

    • Erin Smallwood Wathen

      Marie, I am so, SO sorry. I will message you privately a bit about why it felt awkward to me. But, i did feel welcomed there, and loved being your neighbor. I was so sad when you guys moved! I’m going to leave this post up, but take out the dig about the block party, because you are right, it was a jerky thing to say. Again, i’m sorry, and will send you a msg.

  • bluegrassredhead

    I’ve got a bad case of fear of missing out. For me, however, I wouldn’t have stayed because of the candy. For me, it’s about the experiences. I feel the scarcity of my children’s childhood. You only get so many Halloweens and of those you only get so many they enjoy and of those you only get so many where someone isn’t sick or it’s not raining or whatever. I do this math constantly and it leaves me out there on Halloween after everyone else has gone home desperate to soak it all up.