Monday, October 20, 2014

The Halloween Editorial that Wasn't

I decided, without even running it past my publisher, to withdraw the following piece that I wrote for my editorial in the Oct. 29 issue of The Morgan County Press. I did show it to my Dad, a fellow newspaperman, who agreed it would work better on my blog.
I moved around a lot as a child. I remember spooky Halloweens in several different states.

I remember being freaked out by a Halloween episode of “Little House on the Prairie” when I was an Indiana tyke knee-high to Melissa Gilbert.

I remember trick-or-treating as a middle schooler in Nebraska, where the scariest house in the neighborhood had the lights on and the drapes open. Anyone who rang could look through a big oval window in the front door and see an old lady sitting in the parlor with her back to the door, not responding to the bell.

I remember another Halloween in that same Nebraska town when nobody let their kids out of sight due to rumors of a satanic sacrifice planned that night. A little girl was snatched off the street not long after that - scary times, Halloween or not.

I remember the monster blizzard over Halloween when I was a college freshman in Minnesota. It was scary to think people could get lost and die within steps of their door.

This Halloween in the heart of Missouri, other things scare me.

It scares me to drive some roads around here at night. The hills, the curves, and the shadow of the trees sometimes make it hard to see what might be only a few car lengths ahead.

There’s a high-tension line between driving fast enough to get through it sooner and taking extra care to make it home in one piece. Sometimes that tension keeps humming at me for sleepless hours afterward.

It scares me when I see impatient drivers gunning past lines of other vehicles on a two-lane road when someone is closing in from the other direction.

That’s especially scary during my morning commute, when kids are waiting for the school bus all along the roadside.

It scares me to think of the troubles in St. Louis, where I lived until just before things started to go wrong.

What’s really chilling about it is that I can probably say nothing, however well meant, without the risk of adding to the evil. It’s a disturbing time, and the disturbances are disturbingly close.

I’m scared for friends and loved ones who are ill in health, uneasy in mind, or facing legal and financial troubles.

Two families I know have been evicted from their homes because they couldn’t afford the rent. A dear friend’s father faces criminal charges that could ruin his whole family. Someone I love has been feeling down, perhaps far enough down to impact their physical health. And people living on my beat have suffered hurt or loss when some of the things I fear happened to them.

While I pray for them, I am reminded I’ve been at a scarier place in my own life, when my fortunes were so precarious that I too could have lost my health or my home.

But I am also thankful for the kindness and concern of good people who helped me get to this better place. I hope I will rise to the occasion when the chance appears to pay it forward.

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