There’s an electricity within the shelter tonight, an energy I haven’t felt in any other facility like this. Despite the rather dire environment, a different kind of mask is being worn in the halls. We’ve all come together to give the children in the shelter a Halloween trick-or-treating experience; we are each sitting in offices and rooms with bowls of candy, the children have costumes made of pyjamas and hand-made masks, and hot-dogs, hamburgers, and cupcakes are waiting in the kitchen for afterwards.
It is nothing short of amazing.
I’ve never seen anything like this. These children have next to nothing, beyond their mother and, while they are here, each other. The costumes, tattered as they may be, are bringing out a joy in the children that has illuminated the entire place, and the camaraderie of the adults, recreating the experience of going door-to-door for candy, puts a glow in the heart that can barely be described. Most of us in this shelter haven’t enough money to feed ourselves, and those with children go without to assure their children have food. But we pulled together, with the aid of discounts from Dollar Stores and thrift shops, in order to give the kids here a sense of normalcy amid the heartwrenching chaos that is homelessness.
Most of these children witnessed their mothers suffer abuses that, lacking the ability to comprehend, has inevitably damaged them. Some of these mothers are no angels, themselves, and they hold the children both out of love, and out of control over an otherwise uncontrollable situation. But the past doesn’t matter in this moment; the children aren’t at fault. They shouldn’t have to miss out on a holiday. No one here was willing to let them suffer that.
The shouts and laughter can be heard in the distance. I’m perhaps in the second- or third-to-last room, leaving me the time to try to capture in words something so beautiful, so unique that words fail to capture the miracle. One is dressed as a cat, with paw-print pyjamas and make-up on their nose and cheeks. Another is Batman, with a mask made out of a beanie. One is wearing a black afghan blanket, stripped down to look like a spiderweb. Another was fortunate enough to be just the right size for a Dollar Store Cinderella costume; she has been parading around in it all afternoon with the most joyful smile on her face.
Games are being played in the dining hall. Every few moments I hear them scream joyfully in unison as they pin a tail on a hand-drawn donkey or fail to pull an apple out of a bucket with their teeth. Every time they do I feel a warm welling in my heart, a warmth which I’ve never experienced. Halloween has never been my holiday; I’ve not celebrated it nor have I been in places where kids go door-to-door when the holiday comes about. And as I wait for the group of kids to approach my door, I eye the white sheet on my bed.
I think for this year, Elty will be a ghost for Halloween. Have a merry All Hallow’s Eve, everyone – I hear them shouting “Trick or Treat” now.