Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Ghost that Haunts Me

Halloween said good-bye this morning with a big, wet kiss.

Through sleep-crusted eyes I reached out to its fleeting silhouette in my doorway and choked desperately, “Was it good for you?”

Building the haunted house, though time-consuming, isn’t the hardest part. Making every five-minute tour a uniquely haunting experience is the real challenge. After all, these kids see us everyday. They know, or they think they know, what we’re capable of. Yes, the fear grabs them when we’ve stretched the bounds of their expectations, and perhaps even their imaginations, and completely embraced the spectral spirit of Halloween.

For example, as I was browsing through Target’s premature Halloween aisles two months ago, I was inspired by their adult-sized Operation game costume. What if our Learning Center, in which kids often play Operation, was really haunted? What if the books moved off the shelves like the opening act in Ghostbusters, and the games sprung to life?

Oh, we’ve done the “creepy doctor’s table” before, complete with the cooked, cold spaghetti guts, but when the kids saw this,


they weren’t sure what to think. Only options, really: laugh your head off, or proceed with caution. The creepiness had settled in, but the fear . . . it reached out and grabbed them when our Operation patient did, when she activated the buzzer hidden underneath her latex-gloved hand. Sure, anybody can go to Target and look like the Operation game, but to sound like it? If it touches me, will it shock me, too?

The question is enough.

Our mummy’s tomb, staged in the computer lab as an homage to ancient Egypt’s knack for advanced technology, was pure old school Universal Studios, with a fraction of a fraction of the budget. I wanted a brochure-style photo of our proverbial grand finale, and our impromptu photographer pulled it off:


Working with children (and the operative phrase is “working for them”), the question that drives my mania behind every significant event like our annual haunted house is, “Will it be memorable?” I don’t care if the kids talk about last night’s haunted house today, but ten years from now, when they’re old enough to reflect upon (and hopefully long for) their youth, will they fondly remember anything we do for them? My job is as selfish as it is selfless – I do not want my hard work and good intentions buried beneath these kids’ better memories. Not that I want to be above them, either, but right there beside them: home, school, church, and my team and me. If one future grown-up can say that we helped imbed his childhood as a treasured experience. . .

Everybody says that. “If I can change just one life.” I’ll take a few dozen. A hundred. I say making a difference means that the difference between the people you meet and the people you influence is zero. Quantity and quality are not conflicting or contradicting qualities.

“Was it good for you?”

Halloween comes but once a year, but the question haunts me everyday.

1 comment:

Andrew Wales said...

Sounds like a great activity for kids.

Last year we had a huge Family Fun Night on Dr. Seuss' birthday. If you want to see some pix of it, check out