BillnyeAfter many years of scowling at Halloween — the raising of the dead, the ghoulishness, the begging for and gorging on candy, children dangerously running across slick, leaf covered streets, half blinded by masks, the commercialization of the day, the ruin of the school night routine — I came around. It was a couple years ago, when our own children were enjoying the beggar’s night festivities. As they went door-to-door and were greeted with candy by our neighbors, I finally saw the true sweetness of the evening.

This was the same year that I noticed that a great many of the costumed visitors to our home were strangers. At first, I enjoyed the idea of seeing kids and parents from down the street who I hadn’t yet met.

As I looked closer, I realized that many of the kids weren’t from down the street. Old vans and sedans would park near our house, and unload a half-dozen kids and adults. The children looked up our walk and tentatively approached me. Some were in costume, many were not. The adults, into late teens, held out their own pillowcases and asked for a treat.

I’ve heard folks say, as if the sanctity of a holy day might be compromised: “No costume, no candy.” And: “Those people just come to our neighborhood because we’ll give them candy.” (Conversations that feature “those people” or, worse, “you people” don’t usually end happily.)

I’ve never really understood those arguments. For me, the costume isn’t important. What’s important is that, one night of the year, anyone can come up my walk and I will give him or her candy. I think it’s a remarkable treat, for me, to be able to offer a treat to absolutely anyone. It’s a delight.

The delight, for me, is increased if the person is someone who — every other night of the year — does not have the world offering him candy. Life is much harder for most people than it is for me. I’m lucky. If I can give a Reese’s Cup to someone who isn’t as well off as I am, I’ll do it. Does it upset the social order to allow the mean streets to smile one night a year?

Seeing my bowtie, kids often ask if I am Bill Nye The Science Guy. I’m used to this. I say, “No, I’m not.” Disappointed, one small child quietly asked, “Well, then, do you know him?”

Giving out candy to every “beggar” who might really need a treat, I quietly think to myself that I’m dressed for Halloween as a liberal.

In recent years, a strange twist. Three years ago, I noticed a Hummer unloading well-costumed children who had clearly been brought in from another neighborhood. One child hopped out of the giant vehicle and exclaimed with delight, “Oh, I just love this neighborhood. The houses are so close together.” How surprising that a child would have to be carted to a less grand neighborhood, because she had been as isolated by wealth as another child was by poverty.

I gave her a Reese’s Cup, all the same.