I love Halloween.
It’s not because I’m a fan of horror movies or haunted houses. Spooking up my house with wispy ghosts swinging from tree branches, fake spider webs and creepy tombstones is not the appeal.
I love Halloween because it’s like a neighborhood-wide Mix It Up event. Most other times during the year, people stick to themselves and offer only the occasional polite “hello” to their neighbors. The exceptions are mini gatherings at the bus stop or summers around the pool. Halloween is different. This is when the entire neighborhood gets together.
I love the diversity. Kids dress up as superheroes, vampires, ghosts, zombies and cartoon characters. Some costumes are scary. Others are cute. Still others are funny. Their costumes, and the collective devotion to have fun on this day, provide an opportunity for people to see past race, ethnicity and nationality. Socioeconomic status is not an excuse for division. Political party affiliation is not a factor. The kids are just kids having fun. Adults are just parents enjoying the moment.
In our community, families and trick-or-treaters mingle on the sidewalks. People boisterously greet each other. Laughter and squeals are the common language. People “ooh” and “aah” over the costumes and freely offer compliments. Porch lights glow, welcoming kids to their doorsteps. There is no division; any of these homes are fair game. There are no cliques. Every house is included. And knock after knock, neighbors graciously open up their homes to hand out candy and treats without expecting anything in return.
To me, Halloween is truly a symbolic night of giving, sharing and unification. Halloween reminds me why I teach tolerance to my children and my students. No matter how many ways we are completely different or disagree on issues, we are so much alike. We all have something to contribute. We are all humans craving acceptance and belonging.
I don’t want Halloween's Mix-It-Up be a solitary event. To continue mixing it up, I plan to invite my neighbors on play dates and to dinner and get to know them. When people hang out with each other, labels tend to fall away. We realize that people are more complex than that, and that many times what we have in common far outweighs our differences.
Sansbury is a middle and high school English teacher in Georgia.