Good Morning, World. Welcome to a new day.
The last late sunrise of the fall, as we turn back clocks tonight and gain a precious hour. Think about that – the gift of time. Once a year we receive, once a year we lose. I can’t wait to be up at 5 a.m. tomorrow and catching up on work without feeling the least bit tired.
Yesterday was such a busy day of preparedness that I didn’t have time to write. Someone once told me that the older my children get, the more they will need me present and attentive, and they were right. Half day of school and I spent the afternoon at the Scout Store, cooking for Shabbat and mapping out details for trick-or-treating.
It was our first time ever, handing out candy from our own house, and trick-or-treating in our own neighborhood. We live so far south that people from other neighborhoods made a mad dash in to ask for treats. Since for years it was us who trick-or-treated in a neighborhood not our own, I understand and welcome the need to find your treats elsewhere than where you live.
One block in our neighborhood featured houses with all-out decorations in the spooky spirit, with kids going from house to house, porch light on, to receive king-size candies and bags of chips. Since it was also Shabbat, some Jews didn’t participate, and one rabbi wrote about how the spirit of Halloween is trickery and ghoulishness and encouraged Jews to wait for Purim, our candy-giving holiday, in the spring, whose core element is giving and dressing up like characters you admire.
Fair enough. But I don’t see the harm in participating in the local culture. In fact, every year that my kids and I have participated in Halloween, we’ve found only smiles at every door and friendliness, welcome and community. Perhaps some costumes are ghoulish and creepy and full of blood and gore. But that doesn’t mean the spirit of giving is absent.
I am trying to nurture a spirit of giving in my children. Some days, I feel like I succeed, but other days it seems as though all my efforts are for naught. And in the evil tween years, I am finding a level of anger and angst that I just don’t know what to do with.
I have a hunch that this spirit of giving needs to be deeply embedded in one’s soul from the day of birth. A prevailing family ethos that promotes kindness and community over self-focus and greed.
Not that we’ve been a greedy bunch. On the contrary. But that drive for self-preservation runs deep even in the most comfortable of families. And perhaps it’s regular synagogue or church attendance, regular involvement in acts of community service, regular prayer that sets a person on the path toward a giving heart.
If that’s the case, then I’ve missed some crucial steps. For years, I haven’t pushed the going-to-synagogue part of our routine, an admitted act of rebellion against 10 years of religious life that opened my eyes to hypocrisies that can live in the communities of self-proclaimed righteous adherents.
And in stepping away, I’ve pulled my children from the ethos of inviting people over, welcoming strangers, doing for others, as a virtue of daily life.
I’ve lost count of how many people invited me into their home to share a Sabbath meal. It has been years since those invitations have come readily, but years ago I had a seat at many tables, in many cities, and it felt nice to be included. It felt like the spirit of daily living demanded invitations and open doors.
In the rag-tag world at-large, most people don’t sit down to special meals on a weekly basis, and they certainly don’t invite over other families. It’s only for special occasions. And in adopting that practice, we adopt a practice of distance and seclusion.
Last night, after all the candy was counted and categorized, and Asher and Eliana made the blessing over the wine (grape juice) in their new Kiddush cups from Israel (in honor of their coming b’nai mitzvah), I set the table for today’s Sabbath lunch. We have one guest, but a guest nonetheless, and the table looked spectacular before I went to sleep.
This morning, I baked the salmon in the parsley-parmesan crust Asher wanted and put apples into the crockpot with spices and brown sugar and a little bit of butter for an impromptu dessert. It feels good to prepare my house to welcome guests.
Even on Halloween, another mom and her sons joined us for trick-or-treating and then relaxed in our warm house afterwards with hot drinks, the three boys jumping at the chance to give candy to trick-or-treaters ringing at our door. The spirit of giving and of community soared in our home, and not just because it was Shabbat.
It was a prime example of how any holiday – any day! – can turn into an opportunity to convene with friends and share words of encouragement. Even on Halloween, this other mom and I talked spirituality and belief, and our boys were beacons of light for those at our door, and for each other. Even in the way they traded some of their loot to arrive at combinations of what they really wanted.
Giving comes in all different cloaks. It’s not just the apparent days or opportunities. It can live deep in the soul and just need a quick and quiet spark to ignite.
I choose to believe that a giving heart lives in each and every one of us. It’s whether we choose to let it lead that makes all the difference.