Jim Aitkins is an American writer and speaker whose observations about everyday life provide powerful lessons for personal growth. A chance encounter at Halloween has shaped his outlook for 2015
Of all the holidays that Americans and our friends in the UK have in common, I must say that Halloween is one of the more peculiar. We tell our young ones all year long that we ought not to talk to, or take candy from, strangers. Yet one night each year we have our children don costumes to go about the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and asking for treats.
A couple of months ago, my fiancée and I were guests at the home of some friends who live in a favourite part of town for trick-or-treaters. It just so happened that 31 October was the night we were enjoying dinner, wine and happy stories at the home of our hosts.
Every few minutes the doorbell would ring and one or more of us would go to greet the little visitors disguised as heroes, princesses or some kind of monster.
They would each be given a small rubber glove, the palm and fingers of which were stuffed with candy and as a result the treat was made up to look like a severed hand.
Getting past how awful it would be, on any other occasion, to present children with such a grotesque, it was really quite humorous. One of the treat-seeking guests, however, really made me think.
He was taller than the other two or three youngsters standing next to him, and I would say he was dressed normally, except for a mask covering his entire face.
The mask was unique in that it was not recognisable as anything in particular. It was not the likeness of a famous politician or super hero.
It was just a smiling human face.
It was so unusual that I felt compelled to ask about it, but I struggled to form the appropriate question. What I said to the young man came out something like, “What are you… I mean, what is your… I mean, who are you supposed to be?”
As I stumbled around, awkwardly trying to inquire about the disguise in a gentle and inoffensive way, the young fellow responded to my
questions by simply removing his mask and announcing his name. At that, the woman standing behind him and the other children sort of chuckled and explained that he was a 14-year-old exchange student from China and unfamiliar with Halloween, which explains why he had taken my questions literally.
It was a refreshing lesson for us all as we contemplate the challenges and opportunities of the New Year.
If painful experiences of the past have compelled you to hide behind proverbial masks of superficiality, you are not alone.
We all are tempted to go about like trick-or-treaters, disguising ourselves under layers of triviality. We are too often so afraid of being rejected that we fall for the lie that transparency is weakness, when in fact the opposite is the truth.
Make this the year that you resolve to be as true to the real you as you have ever been.
Be brave. When you meet someone who indicates that they are as tired as you are of pettiness, trifling over small things, and people not being ‘real’ in daily life, make the bold choice to be transparent.
If you do this, I believe that you will be treated to an awesome 2015 with far greater happiness.