Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.
Writer and humorist David Sedaris tells a story of when he was eight years old
and moved to a new town where the only family on his block
who didn’t own a television were the Tomkeys.[i]
Instead of a TV, the Tomkeys had a boat,
and on the weekends,
they would leave town and head for the lake.
That year, Halloween fell on a Saturday.
David and his sisters dressed up and went
from house to house collecting candy.
The next night, as David and his family sat watching TV, the doorbell rang…
…and there, on their doorstep, stood the Tomkeys,
the parents dressed normally
and the two children in Halloween costumes.
The father explained that they had spent the weekend at the lake
and so the children had not been able to trick or treat.
“So I guess we’re trick or treating now, if it’s not too late.”
“Of course it’s not too late,” David’s mother said.
Then she told her children to go and get the candy.
“The candy’s all gone,” one of David’s sisters said.
“We gave it all out last night.”
“Not that candy,” their mother said. “The OTHER candy.”
“Do you mean OUR candy?” another sister asked.
“The candy we earned?”
The children knew this is what their mother must mean,
especially when she fixed them with THAT LOOK
that mothers can give.
They hurried off to their bedrooms.
In his room, David grabbed the brown paper bag marked “My Candy. Keep Out.”
He dumped it on his bed
and started searching for the crummiest candy,
the only things he would even consider giving away.
As he divided his candy into piles according to what he liked best
he knew that any minute
his mother would come into his room
and indiscriminately grab whatever she could
to give to the Tomkeys.
Then it occurred to David that the only thing to do
was to eat as much as he could right then and there.
So he started unwrapping the miniature chocolate bars
and cramming them into his mouth.
Moments later, his mother entered the room, and in desperation,
he started breaking apart the candy he couldn’t fit
into his mouth because, as he explained,
“while it hurt to destroy them,
it would have hurt even more to give them away.”
As his mother grabbed a roll of Necco wafers, he pleaded with her,
“Not those. Not those,”
and as he did, bits of chewed up chocolate
sprayed from his mouth.
His mother just looked at him and said,
“You should look at yourself. I mean, really look at yourself.”1
It is the invitation the Bible offers us every day: look at yourself.
What is your life built upon?
Who are you, really?
What are you capable of doing and being?