Saturday, October 30, 2010
An open letter to LDS Activities Committees in Utah and other areas with a high concentration of MormonsPosted by Sarah Braudaway-Clark at 11:49 PM
Dear overworked faithful,
I want to begin this letter by saying that I appreciate the work you do for your various congregations. You tirelessly plan fun activities that bring your fellow church members together in fellowship. You are sometimes reduced to begging to get people to bring a salad or a batch of cookies to an event. You often stay late after an activity ends to clean up the messes left by others. You have a hard job. I know this. There is not enough green jello in the world to make me want to do this job.
Except on Halloween.
Every other month of the year, I'm praying to my Father in Heaven in gratitude that I'm not the one who has to plan the pot lucks and the campouts for my congregation. October comes, and I'm lobbying for a seat on the committee. Why the annual change of heart?
Trunk or Treats.
(Aside to Mother Load readers who are not familiar with the phenomenon of the Trunk or Treat, it is an activity held at a church or other venue in which children can do their trick or treating from car to car instead of from house to house. The trunks of said cars are often decorated, and prizes are sometimes given to the most creative, most scary, etc.)
I don't have a problem with trunk or treating as a concept or even as an activity. Okay, I think the name is ridiculously twee and don't like to say it out loud if I can't help it. (This is probably because I didn't think of it myself first.) But the actual event is fairly fun. My trunk is never decorated other than in the, "Oh my gosh, when was the last time you cleaned that thing?!" theme, but the kidlets don't seem to mind as long as I have candy to share.
What I find hard to stomach is when a trunk or treat becomes something my husband has referred to as a "trunk or street." (Blast! Another clever phrase I didn't think of myself!) That is, when a trunk or treat becomes a direct competitor with traditional trick or treating. Either you go to the church and hold out your bag to your fellow church goers, or you pound the pavement the traditional way.
I think in areas like the ones where I grew up, where Mormon children are few and far between, this kind of choice has little impact on the community as a whole. In my elementary school in Lawton, Oklahoma (Go Sullivan Village Vikings!), there were exactly 4 children who went to my church. I was one of them. The other three were my siblings. If our family had decided to leave our house on Halloween night and head on over to the church for a trunk or treat, people in my neighborhood would simply have developed the mistaken belief that Mormons don't celebrate holidays and would have gone on their merry ways to the other homes on Dorchester Drive, collecting candy and enjoying the night air.
Not so in Utah. When the majority of LDS families are celebrating the holiday at the church, in many cases, entire city blocks go dark. People of other faiths then find themselves with bowls full of candy and no one to give it to, or they're out on the sidewalks with their little ones, ringing doorbells that never get answered. Every now and then, they might encounter a cutesy sign inviting them to "come on over" to the church to get some candy. For reasons kindly Mormons don't seem to understand, that is not always a choice their fellow community members want to make. Maybe they have strong beliefs in opposition to our faith. Maybe they've had a not so pleasant run in with a not so pleasant Mormon. Maybe they're just shy. (But really...should it matter why people don't want to come to our church?)
And so, we have a holiday in which a tradition has been abandoned by a majority, sometimes without so much as a mention to any who are not of their faith, and the cohesiveness of a community suffers as a result. A dear friend of mine had 100 trick or treaters at her door last year. This year, she made up 120 treat bags in anticipation of the rush. 10 children rang her doorbell. Everyone else was out at the church, a church she is not a member of.
Her daughter in law took her daughter out for her very first trick or treating outing, only to be met with darkened door after darkened door. She had no idea her neighborhood had other plans for the evening. She had not been invited to them.
Activities Committee members, I implore you to think of the quiet impact these activities are having on your neighbors. Think of the people who set out on Halloween with their children, only to find themselves excluded and forgotten. Think of what it must look like to them when the members of the majority religion in an area choose to pack up their toys and go. You surely don't intend to exclude others, but in removing yourselves from your communities, you surely do.
I'm not out to end the trunk or treats. I'm just asking that you consider holding them on a different day of the month. I will be forever grateful to the Activities Committee chair in my own church who has planned our little congregation's trunk or treats on a day other than Halloween each year she's been in the position. She hasn't made it an either/or proposition.
Maybe in writing this, I'm like the guy who raged against the clock because he wanted to preserve the tradition of the sundial. Maybe I'm like the print journalist who rages against the blogger because the medium has changed. Maybe trunk or treats are about progress, and my children's children will wonder why we ever roamed the streets in search of candy in the dark.
Or maybe I'm just a Mormon who remembers what it was like to embrace the diversity of a world outside of Utah and wishes those around her would do the same inside the state.