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This week we celebrated Halloween. Origins of the holiday aside, I’d like to take some time to discuss its present manifestations in our culture and society.

I saw a snippet of a documentary that was saying how in the 1950s and 1960s people would give out all sorts of different items to trick or treaters, primarily homemade baked goods like cookies and brownies.

However, by the 1970s, concern had grown regarding the safety of accepting these sorts of things from strangers. So manufacturer wrapped pantry goods, like we see distributed these days, became more en vogue.

As a child of the 1980s, I remember trick or treating primarily being something that kids did amongst themselves after the sun had gone down. It was an everyday occurrence for unattended children to roam the streets on their bicycles and skateboards, and a special thing that evening to be able to do so after dark.

We had this culture of “trick or treat” where you might get a treat, but you also might get tricked. Tricks included throwing things like eggs or toilet paper, which was, of course, frowned upon.

As time went on, so too do the traditions seem to evolve, and what I saw last night was every child escorted by a parent, in a very civilized exchange that took place almost exclusively before the sun went down. And with it being a particularly chilly Halloween this year, most of the trick or treaters were escorted house to house via automobile.

To be certain, times have changed. I think it’s easy to look back lovingly on the past with rose colored glasses. To focus on “the good ole days” or to refer to it as a “golden era,” but if we’re being fair, those times had their share of problems also.

The reality is that there has always been struggle and strife and people treating each other less than nice. I’ve come to look at this life we live as a training ground. Like God’s classroom. A place where the lessons are constant, the tests are frequent, and a pop quiz could be lurking around any corner.

Indeed it can be spooky at times. You can never be entirely sure when the neighbor smiling at you while holding out a basket of treats might actually be playing a trick on you. But mostly they truly are just handing you a well-intentioned candy bar.

We have a choice regarding how we move about our life. We can treat every stranger as though they are a fright that might just mean us harm. Or we can give that person a chance and maybe, just maybe, wind up making a new friend. Or at the very least become a slightly better neighbor.

Despite any appearances to the contrary, we truly do need one another in this life – for the connection, for the collective resources, for the empowerment, for the betterment. We’re put on this Earth for one another. Yes indeed, we must learn to trick or treat.

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Shana Stein Faulhaber is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Athens and Corsicana and can be reached via email at shana@shanastein.com

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