On Halloween my friend and I took our daughters trick or treating. Not only did one household hand out full-sized chocolate bars to the kids, but they even were offering a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream to the parents. Now that’s what I call hospitality. By contrast, a house a few doors down was handing out juice boxes. Juice boxes? Any broccoli to go with that? That’s lame.
It turns out that the lameness was just the beginning. After we returned home I jokingly said to my wife “They’re probably expired.” Alas, it turns out I was right. The people had the gall to hand out juice boxes a month past due. Now I admit it isn’t pins jammed in apples or chocolate bars (for more on sabotaged treats see snopes). But it was ugly nonetheless. I can hear the conversation now…
“Don can you pick up some Halloween candy on the way home?”
“Why bother? You can just hand out the expired juice boxes. The kids won’t know the difference!”
If I have my druthers I know one house that would be getting a lump of coal in their stockings this Christmas.
As I thought about the juice box home, I couldn’t help but recognize how it reflected a tendency that is in all of us. We like to save money when we can. We all naturally show a greater concern for our friends and kin than strangers. We all tend to be generous toward those in our immediate circle and not so much to those outside. You know what I’m talking about: we might buy the organic free range chicken for our own family but if we have to bring something to the potluck we get a bulk pack of the cheapest chicken from Costco; We buy our favorite brandname cereal or coffee for ourselves but pick up the cheaper generic products for the Food Bank. It is all too rare that we treat others precisely with the same generosity that we extend to our household. In other words, we rarely love our neighbors as ourselves.
Next, I reflected on just how ugly this tendency to be generous toward ourselves and scrimp on others is. Loving your neighbor as yourself may cost you more. But what kind of life do we want to live? Do we want to be the penny pinching house of skinflints who hand out expired apple juice? Or do we want to live big with generosity, sparing no expense as we distribute chocolate bars and Baileys with wanton abandon even if it means charging an extra fifty bucks on our credit card? (Our target here might be Babette’s Feast, the wonderful 1987 Danish film that depicts a French woman named Babette spending her entire fortune to provide an extraordinary meal for the residents of a small Danish village.)
Finally, at the end of it all, I began to sense some compassion for the juice box house. What a sad way to live. What an ungraced perspective on life. Yes they saved twenty bucks on candy, but at what cost?
And with that I resolved that next year my house is doing full-sized chocolate bars. The Baileys is a bit more dicey however: after all, we are Baptists.