Few moments bring me more joy than that brief exchange of “trick or treat”, a piece of candy, and then a smile on Halloween. What better moment can exist on earth than to bring joy to a child? Particularly a child I don’t know and hasn’t deserved my gift. The essence of Halloween is grace. A child receives a gift for little more than having knocked on a door. Though, I have to admit, the cute little kids receive more grace than the high schoolers looking to cash in one last time.
Most candy, however, is made with high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup streams through the heart of America like fertilizer run off in the great Mississippi causing a distortion of life. Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, chronicles the creation of high fructose corn syrup in his book The Botany of Desire. America has an excess of corn. Growers are caught in a vicious cycle of increasing production and never getting ahead, let alone paying off their debts. The winners of our current domestic agricultural polices are the companies that make products like Coca Cola, Corn Flakes, and Snickers.
Additionally, the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup makes for an abundant source of empty calories. Many foods on the American plate have had their sex appeal boosted through the use of high fructose corn syrup. The human brain is wired to crave the signals of sweet that high fructose corn syrup. Yet, it’s like a cheap push up bra, it may seem better, but there’s no added substance. In addition to over sized portions, pumping up the volume on sweetness and calories has contributed to the growing obesity epidemic.
In light of these facts about high fructose corn syrup, I still bought bags of candy from the grocery store. A smidgin of guilt passes through me as I think about the industrial food chain. Ultimately, however, I decided that it’s better to be good than to be righteous–to not let the perfect get in the way of the good.
Halloween is the only holiday–in fact, the only time of the year–where it is appropriate for strangers in my neighborhood, the people of my community, to knock on my door and expect a gift.
Sugar creates a lasting impression on the brain. A signal gets sent to say, “Remember this source of calories, we may need it later.” It’s a survival mechanism. I want the people in my neighborhood–however brief the moment and however superficial the gift–to make this link: my neighbor is the source of something good. The web of relationships of human interdependence and expressions of grace can start with the small act of giving candy.
Perhaps next year, I will search for better candy than the brightly colored bags of Snickers, Butterfingers, and Hershey’s at my local grocery store. After all, I do want make good choices about life’s essential ingredient: food. Yet, I want that choice to be good, not self-righteous because being good builds community, but being self-righteous diminishes it.