Late afternoon on 31st October I placed a large pumpkin at my front gate, a witch’s hat over the letter box and a flowing white sheet with black oval eyes and spooky mouth over the recycling bin. Then I lay in wait for the Trick or Treaters.
My lure worked. The doorbell rang at 6pm accompanied by a shrill chorus of ‘Trick or treat?’ If I didn’t offer a treat, my costumed visitors would subject me to a trick. So I dutifully handed out what I had prepared. Each child received a big smile and a small basket containing a brightly coloured notepad, a pen that wrote in silver ink, an orange and a packet of seeds (either parsley, mint, oregano or basil). On the first page of the notepad I had written the following lines in silver ink:
It’s a treat to grow my own herbs.
It’s a treat to watch the first shoots break through the ground.
It’s a treat to play in the garden.
It’s a treat to eat an orange.
It’s a treat to stop and notice clouds float across the sky.
It’s a treat to see a rainbow.
It’s a treat to listen to birds singing.
It’s a treat to run in the park.
It’s treat to swim in the ocean.
What else is a treat for you?
The way we label things determines how we respond to them. As long as we continue to label sugar‐laden foods as a ‘treat’, we will feel deprived if we don’t have them. We will feel we are ‘missing out’ or ‘resisting’ rather than choosing not to rot our teeth, brain, liver and kidneys. Suddenly sugar doesn’t sound like such a treat.
By spending more money on marketing than ingredients, the food industry has conditioned us to see their products as treats and indispensable staples. At the same time, they have manipulated their products so that once we start eating them it’s difficult to stop. By consuming a box of donuts we have fallen into an advertising trap. The food industry is full of tricks, not treats.
I am not about to lecture children on the health hazards of the Halloween sweets they received. But I wonder if they even perceive them as a treat anymore? Many children eat sugary snacks every day and receiving them on Halloween is nothing special. Why not use Halloween as an opportunity to open their minds to experiences that are truly wondrous if we pause to appreciate them? I suspect that some of the children who knocked on my door throught I was the one dishing out the trick. I’ve probably earned myself the label of ‘eccentric lady who lives down the road’. So what?
I am heartened by the words of Arthur Schopenhauer: ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’
The things I listed are not likely to be everyday experiences for most children. Maybe, just maybe, while they plant seeds in the ground, they will also plant seeds in their minds about a new type of treat.