The odious tradition of trick or treating, one of America's worse exports (and there have been a few) is arguably, one of the most visible manifestations of all that is wrong with today's society. Let's face it, trick or treating is a legalised extortion racket that we are encouraging our kids to get involved in from an early age; "kids, put a mask on and go over to you neighbour's house and tell them that unless they hand over the entire contents of their treat cupboard, they will be sorry." Cute? Really?
Trick or Treating teaches our kids that it is ok to go out and demand stuff for yourself and that people who do not cooperate with your wish to get something for nothing, deserve to be punished. Is it any wonder that we are living in an increasingly 'me, me, me' society, where so many of us are out to get all we can to satisfy our own greed, without any thought to those who get in the way?
Happily, there is an antidote to the materialistic greed that epitomises this Halloween custom. It is called Reverse Trick or Treating and is part of the whole Pay it Forward phenomenon that I have written about in my new e-book (Paying it Forward; How One Cup of Coffee Could Change The World).With Reverse Trick or Treating, your kids can still get dressed up and still have fun knocking on random doors, but this time instead of demanding stuff to fill their own already sugar-loaded tummies, they give the householder a treat. Imagine - some little monster or witch knocks on your door, screeches those time honoured words 'trick or treat!', but then hands over a chocolate, flower or home-baked cookie!
Imagine what you would be teaching your children by Reverse Trick or Treating - about acts of kindness, about doing something nice for other people, about how one small act can make the world a better place. It's a lesson that is a world away from the traditional Trick or Treat one.
Whilst your little Reverse Trick or Treaters hand out their goodies, they could also explain the concept of Pay it Forward - whereby recipients are asked not to pay the kindness back but 'pay it forward' by doing something nice for someone else. This way, instead of spreading greed and materialism, your kids can spread kindness across their neighbourhood this Halloween.
Your kids could take the campaign further by offering not just sweets or cookies, but other acts of kindness. How about they offer to rake the leaves? Take out the bins? Sort the recycling? Perhaps they could target their efforts on new neighbours or people you don't know so well (always accompany your kids!) to welcome them to the neighbourhood. Or the elderly who might find traditional Trick or Treaters rather intimidating (push a note through their door in advance explaining what you will be doing).
And the great thing about Reverse Trick or Treating is that you are never too old to take part; adults can join in the fun whilst creating a community spirit that is about helping others rather than ourselves.
So, this Halloween, you have a chance to make a difference. What will it be - a grab-fest 'take' frenzy of greedily acquiring as much as possible, or an act of kindness campaign that is all about giving?