(1) The rich know how to give.
(2) Opportunities to teach children are abundant.
(3) It’s a great chance to get to know your neighbors.
I will not write about these lessons independently but will share a quick (mostly incoherent) snapshot that hopefully captures the essence of each lesson.
“Let’s go to the rich neighborhood” we used to say as trick-or-treaters. Not a Halloween went by without some discussion of potentially getting a full sized Snickers bar. We never made it to “those” neighborhoods. In fact, no matter where we went there were punk kids stealing bags of hard-earned candy. (Ironically, I doubt those thieves will ever be in a position to hand out the aforementioned Snickers bars.)
My children love sweets just like anyone else, but they are also no strangers to moderation and healthy food choices. For this reason, they have been content over the years to just fill up their Halloween buckets and call it a night. This year they even seemed a bit uninterested, skipping houses that were decorated and had porch lights on. I was shocked. How could this be?!?! “Kid’s we’re going to the rich neighborhood. Tonight you are going to learn how to hustle!”
We jumped in the car, drove off the military base and down the road a couple of miles. I explained that “when dad was a youngster” we used to run door to door filling up pillowcases full of candy. I concluded my unsolicited history lesson and parked the car. We started to pound the pavement, albeit slow at first. It took the kids an hour to really find their groove.
How rich was the neighborhood you ask? Depends on your definition of “rich”. Very small homes were selling for 1.3 million. Every yard was perfectly manicured. Most driveways were adorned with luxury vehicles and many families were driving door to door in golf carts. One family was even driving through the streets giving out candy. We ended up with 20 “full sized” treats between 3 kids. (Score!)
There are undoubtedly snobs in this world who happen to be rich and therefore give the wealthy a bad name. But, my experience last night was remarkable. There was not a single home in which we were not greeted with exceptional warmth and kindness. Almost every homeowner interacted with the kids commenting and inquiring about their costumes. I asked some of the homeowners about a piece of art that I saw hanging up on the wall and they invited me in without hesitation. There were home builders, artisans, orthodontists, and retirees. Roughly 50% of the homes held out a bowl of candy and told the kids to “take what you want” and/or “take some more.” It is evident that the financially independent have become so for a reason. Most have worked very hard to get where they are, they have learned gratitude and are quick to give back and share, whether it be advice, friendship, material goods or services.
I found plenty of opportunities to teach the kids. From safety, to hard work, to manners. My boy is still a bit too young to use a filter and is often brutally honest (as a child should be). At one home he told an older gentleman that he didn’t like trail mix. The man’s feelings were hurt, based on the words he murmured under his breath. I noted the address and will have my son mail him a handwritten apology letter. My parents and grandparents never tolerated a lack of manners and that has trickled down to their posterity.
THE CHALLENGE: First, if you think the wealthy segment of the population is a bunch of detestable shmucks, STOP! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Isolated incidents do not represent the masses.
Second, teach the rising generation. They need to learn social skills. They need to learn principles of safety. They need to have fun, create good memories and spend time with mom and dad. They need to learn how to work hard. Halloween is a perfect opportunity for all of these. Last night was not at all about the candy, it was about the children. It was about the education.
Photo by Philip Hay