Tale of a Halloween Scrooge

In honor of the season, here’s a Halloween memory . . .

I grew up in a primarily working-class neighborhood. We lived in a big city and our street was full of families with school-age children. There were a few “well-to-do” neighbors, but they were the exception rather than the rule. Most people anxiously awaited their next paycheck.

As a child, I was often told that poor people are the most generous. I’m not sure if that’s absolutely true, but I have witnessed many striking examples of generosity from people of little means, and equally striking examples of stinginess from people who could well afford to be altruistic.

To protect the guilty, I shall refer to a wealthy family in the old neighborhood as the “Smiths”, and to their son, as “Johnny”.

The scenario was the same every Halloween. When we rang the doorbell at the Smith home to trick or treat . . . Mrs. Smith would appear with a large bowl that was about half-full of candy corn.

She’d smile as if she were giving us gold coins, while she carefully dropped TWO pieces of candy corn into each child’s bag. Although we were pretty young, we found this astounding, for we knew that many of our less fortunate neighbors took great pleasure in offering us little bundles of beautifully wrapped treats, even though it must have been a sacrifice for them to do so. Years went by, and although we were always hopeful that Mrs. Smith might change her ways – she never did.

When Mrs. Smith’s son, Johnny, became too old to trick or treat, he took on the role of candy corn dispenser. However, Mrs. Smith was always at his elbow, dramatically urging: “Just two per child, Johnny!”

Johnny!!! Just two!!!”

It’s funny how that memory is so vivid after all these years. It shows how impressionable children can be. At a very early age, I learned that there are people with hearts of pure gold, and there are people who could have hearts of gold . . . but choose not to.