Halloween is only a couple days away, and I don't know about you, but my household is a buzz of excitement. Costumes are being finalized, decorations are being placed just so, scary books and movies are piling up. And, of course, the route we'll take for trick-or-treating is being meticulously planned.
It's in this latter planning that I find myself talking to the kids about porch lights, and the importance behind this respectful practice.
When I would trick-or-treat as a kid, there weren't many houses without a porch light turned on. I can clearly remember the first time I came across a dark house. I was probably eight or so and I didn't understand the meaning. I marched right up to the door, knocked, and expectantly held out my bag for candy. An older woman came to the door and crossly told me I needed to go away. She didn't celebrate Halloween and her porch light was off, and that I should have known that.
Trust me, the dejected little girl that walked away from that house remembers that lesson very well. It's also a lesson I don't want my own kids to learn in such a fashion. At the same time, I want them to know a dark porch doesn't mean the people aren't nice.
This seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? With kids, though, I'm finding that I'm repeating this lesson year after year. It never fails, the first house we come to without a light on, the kids will invariably grumble, "Mean people must live here."
This is where I pull them to the side and remind them that a dark porch could mean a lot of things. For one, the family could be out doing their own trick-or-treating. Maybe the people have gotten sick. Some people may have opted to go to a party instead of neighborhood trick-or-treating. And that yes, there are those who do not celebrate Halloween, or if they do, they do it in another way other than giving out candy to little imps. But whatever the reason, the people are not to be mistreated.
These reminders take them awhile, but after a few dark houses, they start to come around on their own and say, "maybe they're not home," for example.
These are little life lessons I hope take root. It's important to respect others and not make judgements at first sight, as it is so easy to do.
For my own house, our porch light will be off at first because we're out trick-or-treating, then I'll switch it on when we get home for all the later trick-or-treaters. In the back of my head, I'm thinking of all those kids who'll pass my house with cruel words on their tongue. It can't be helped, but I'm hoping my kids, at least, will think twice about their thoughts when they pass a dark house.
What about you? Will you keep your lights on or off?