Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I think you should be able to trick-or-treat and be absolutely sure no one tried to poison you.
I mean, there are unspoken Halloween RULES. Right? You know them. I know them.
You ring the doorbell, tell your kids to say “Trick-or-Treat,” then watch them cry or stare blankly or fight nearby children for their candy bucket. Then, the older person in the cardigan with a warm smile and kind eyes should offer treats and dismiss you to the next porch.
However, a few years ago, we were trick-or-treating with some friends in their beautiful neighborhood and experienced potential poisoning. Initially, all was well. These cardigan-bedecked residents were giving out full-sized, name brand candy like it was the easiest thing in the world. But then, it happened.
A strange man got out of a car that had been slowly rolling down the street. Then, he stood in front of my family, looked at us clearly creepily, dropped handfuls of candy into our childrens’ buckets, and vanished. I mean, he speed-walked away without a word. This is precisely why we have the rules. You don’t just drive up and drop candy into kids’ buckets with no words, no smile, and no doorstep.
I may be above average paranoid (I literally wrote a book called Afraid of All the Things) but my husband isn’t, and even he was spooked by the experience. So, we left and told our kids we were going to go pick up “special” candy. Then, we dumped their candy in the trash and bought them trustworthy, grocery store candy instead.
Why did we do that? Because we thought a stranger might be sharing poisoned bars on the most important night of the candy year. We’ve all heard about the possibility of dangerous candy on Halloween. It’s something I’ve thought about every year since I was old enough to cry awkwardly in nice neighborhoods, because I don’t really like Crunch bars and they should know that.
But, here’s the poisoned candy reality. Is there evil in this world? Yes. Do people hurt other people intentionally? Yes. Has there ever been a single credible random trick-or-treat poisoning? No.
I actually had a really hard time digging up any reports of trick-or-treat related crimes. Sure, I could link to information I found in the Smithsonian and Snopes, but the bottom line is, it’s really not a thing. In fact, I read about a sociologist from the University of Delaware who spent almost thirty years investigating this idea — strangers poisoning random children with Halloween candy. At the time the article was published, he was never able to identify a single example of this happening.
Anxiety in America
So, we can put those worries to rest. But, my guess is, if you’re losing sleep over Halloween danger in the first place, your problem isn’t Halloween. It’s fear.
And that’s no surprise. We are a worried people.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 40 million adults in the country deal with anxiety. NBC News states one in six Americans is on psychiatric drugs. And listen, I’ve had seasons in my own life when I was one of those six. I’ve taken pills to help with my tendency to hyperventilate, and rarely has that had anything to do with trick-or treating.
So, are we overdoing it? With the pills and the panic and the anxiety over things like free candy? And what is the answer?
The best answer I’ve come across came from Tim Keller in a sermon titled, “The Wounded Spirit.” He submits that the Bible’s answer to anxiety is, “It’s complicated.”
Keller points out there are many different sources of anxiety/depression. There are emotional, spiritual, physical, moral, and existential factors. So, if you’re discouraged because you’re not trusting God, a pill won’t help you; you need God’s Word. If your anxiety is due to a chemical imbalance or a thyroid issue, a self-help book is not going to do it; you need medicine. If you’re afraid because you are living in sin, psychotherapy isn’t enough; you need repentance.
The Tree of Life
What then is the solution? Suck it up? Take our pills? Punt on Halloween this year?
If you’re a person who battles anxiety/fear/depression, I hope you discover the root(s) of your struggle. But, as Christians, we can always do what Keller shares at the end of his message and look to the Tree of Life. We can look to the gospel and see Jesus on the cross in our place and find hope for any hurt.
If our sins are defeating us, Jesus gives us His perfection. If our body is broken, He will resurrect it. If our emotions are crushed, we know there is One who loves us to the death and beyond. If we are fearing the grave, His defeat of the grave tells us, “Fear not.”
As Christians doing life on January 1st, March 20th, October 31st, or any day of the year, we don’t have to fear the scary world and the scary people in it, because Jesus offers us peace in knowing He has conquered the world (John 16:33).
Jesus died and rose to save scared people. And when we hold the cross up to our fears, our fears can’t stand. That is because neither death, life, angels, rulers, present things, future things, nor any candy in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In conclusion, Jesus is beautiful, Crunch bars aren’t candy, and happy Halloween!