My passion for UNICEF in general and Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF in particular began in the 1970s. I grew up in a household that did not believe children should “go begging for candy,” so we did not trick or treat on Halloween. I did, however, grow up in a household that believed it was important to learn about the global community and that children could make a difference in the world, no matter our age.
So, my brother and I would go trick or treating for UNICEF. On a sunny afternoon. Several days before Halloween. In our costumes. I think after a year my brother made the choice to avoid the humiliation of daylight trick-or-treating on the wrong day in costume for pocket change, but I persisted, motivated by the illustrations on the back of my UNICEF box that documented just how far a nickel or a quarter could go in the world of global public health.
One year, I had a revelation. What would happen if I took my UNICEF box around on the actual night of Halloween? Perhaps people would be more ready and willing to donate if I made my rounds at a time and on a date the neighbors were expecting children to come by and ask for stuff? I presented my case to my mother, who was wary until my father spoke up and volunteered to go with me. It would be dark, after all, and it would be reasonable for me to have an adult nearby.
We set out that night, and I remember returning from the first house to my father – UNICEF box clinking and my hands full of candy. “What do I do with the candy?” I asked. I was unprepared for the sweets, having set off with only my UNICEF box in hands. He replied, “I happen to be wearing a coat with very large pockets.” And so I learned about grace, care, and teamwork. We went door to door that night, bringing home the heaviest UNICEF box of all my years and my first-ever haul of Halloween candy, which of course was shared with the man who carried it in his pockets for me.
I remain a huge fan of trick-or-treat for UNICEF. I’ve convinced the last two churches I’ve served to join me in an annual tradition, celebrating a day when kids make a difference by advocating for other kids and raising funds to provide for basic personal and public health for our youngest global citizens. At South Gate, we hand out boxes on both of the Sundays before Halloween, and during the Children’s Message our organist plays “scary” music while they trick-or-treat up and down the aisles. Our congregation enjoys helping our kids help other kids, and they come prepared with plenty of change to fill the boxes. I usually tell the story of trick-or-treating for UNICEF with my father, explain the importance of kids helping other kids, and on the way out of worship everyone receives a reverse trick-or-treat fair trade mini chocolate from Equal Exchange.
It’s a great day, both in terms of generosity and advocacy, and hopefully helps reframe our traditions around Halloween to include care for our neighbors around the world.
Trick or Treat for UNICEF information and order forms can be found here: http://www.unicefusa.org/mission/usa/trick-or-treat
Equal Exchange offers reverse trick-or-treat kits in season: http://equalexchange.coop/