SGLY: Even the monsters
I met Wonder Woman early in the evening. She had wristbands and a belt of gleaming gold, an electric-blue skirt and cape with shimmering stars, a ruby top and boots, and a blooming bow showcasing a single honeyed curl. Oh, and a lollipop — a lollipop held with dimpled, sticky fingers.
Wonder Woman puts the lollipop back into her mouth to take a piece of candy from me. She offers a shy smile in return before her dad guides her to the next bowl of treats. People of all shapes and sizes fill the sidewalks like a string of colored decorations outlining historic downtown.
The occasion for this unique visit is Downtown Trick-or-Treat. One of our city's most participated traditions is the merchants joining together at the end of October to gift the community an evening of free, family fun overflowing with characters ranging from pirates to pixies (and probably a few Sleeping Beauties by the time the night is over). The merchants purchase bags upon bags of candy, yet it never seems to be quite enough as the popularity and population continue to grow year after year. What a fun problem to have — needing more treats to share with others.
Despite the treats, my energy level plays tricks on me as the night progresses. I go from smiling and saying, "Have fun!" as I remark on each child's costume to barely noticing what they are wearing. Details fade into distraction as the event nears the end. I find myself engaged in thought rather than the person before me. That is until I hear the heels of boots echo unevenly on the sidewalk.
Snapping out of my lull, I look to see a monster dressed in black with bloody, jagged rips upon his oversized cloak. His face is covered in makeup, creating images of scar tissue and rotting flesh. The only clearly unaltered thing are his eyes. He is young but older than most I have seen this evening. He holds a plastic grocery bag partially filled with candy. He stares at me, holding out his bag, not saying a word.
My breath catches in his eyes. They look like bruised tomatoes, a muddy red, with a blackened full moon in the center. I look down to select a piece of candy from my bowl but stop short when I hear what sounds similar to a rattlesnake. I return my gaze to the young man to realize the noise is the plastic bag being shaken by the boy's trembling hand.
"Say thank you," a voice booms behind the monster.
I lean to the side just enough to see the man behind the boy. He is dressed without a costume, but his disheveled and angry presence is commanding and disturbing. Quickly I grab several pieces of chocolate and put them inside the boy's bag. I stop myself from saying, "Have fun!" as it is evident the boy is as distracted as I was just moments prior. I cannot help but wonder what is running through his mind, or perhaps, who or what he wishes he could run from. Before I can say anything, the man comes beside the boy and palms the back of the boy's neck with a tight squeeze. The man smells of diesel and dirt, and his lips quiver as if he is suppressing the temptation to kick into a rage.
"You got enough candy for the night, son. Get your butt back home. I took you out like your mama asked. We're done." He gives me a slight nod of satisfaction and turns his son away from me, moving him backward from the crowd. The boy stumbles and says in a voice almost too faint to hear, "Thank you" before correcting his balance. My attention follows the boy, who now appears like a solitary, broken decoration that has fallen out of line. Seeing him with his father, I can no longer tell who is supposed to be the monster.
Leo Tolstoy wrote, "The most important person is the one you are with in this moment."
Tolstoy’s words chastise me for losing my focus, even if but for a short time. In addition to simply filling candy bags, I should be putting a little love and joy into each child. I was reminded that most opportunities come around once, and my chance to meet this boy where he was at, for however long he was before me, is now forever gone. I failed in the moment. I failed him.
How many people enter our circle on a given day? How many times do we speak on the phone or text? Do we live as though the person who is before us is the most important person at that moment? Or do we politely engage just enough to get the conversation over and the tasks complete? Do we put a little love on others, a little more kindness than what is necessary, or do we go through the motions, thinking about what is next on our list?
May we be intentionally generous with our gentleness. We never truly know what people are going through or who they are behind their masks. So many put on a strong and social face but feel exhausted and overwhelmed inside.
Put a little love on people. I cannot think of one person who is without a need for kindness… even the monsters.
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.