I sat behind a Rubbermaid table in front of an old Palo Alto residence, holding a chocolate bar the size of my face.
The arm of an elementary-school-aged boy dressed as a dinosaur extended above his head to where I could see his hand, his palm facing up toward the night sky. He waited as I handed him the chocolate bar. Like a soldier, he marched to the next house. His parents trailed behind him.
During my Halloween interactions this year, I was trapped in awkward silences more often than I’d like to admit. Kids stopped chanting “Trick-or-treat!” in their high-pitched voices. Children started grabbing chocolate bars from the table silently, without a “thank you.” Parents asked for chocolate frequently.
When I accidentally gave a little girl a second bar, I asked if she had one already, and she stared at me as her parents quickly whisked her away.
To say the least, I was disappointed.
When I was young, my parents used Halloween as a means to teach me life skills.
• Skill No. 1: Ask for what you want, in the form of the question: Trick or treat?
• Skill No. 2: Wait patiently for the hosts to present their riches. Even if they say you can take two, you take one because it’s not good for your teeth. And don’t be greedy; leave some so that another trick-or-treater can get something instead of walking away empty-handed later in the evening.
• Skill No. 3: Assert the loudest “thank you” possible, regardless of whether the candy was Twix or Butterfingers, because those are the magic words that must be said when someone gives you anything.
• Skill No. 4: Smile and say “Happy Halloween!” because only on Oct. 31 do you get free candy.
In a matter of a couple of years, why have kids changed so much? Has saying “thank you” become overrated? In the mad-rush startup culture of Silicon Valley, have we forgotten gratitude?
My biggest fear is that we as a society are forgetting to consider the full stories of the realities around us.
Who gives us Halloween candy? Why does Halloween matter from the lens of a community? How does entitlement not only affect the entitled but the people surrounding the entitled? How does gratitude subconsciously affect us? Why are social norms so powerful and how can we subvert them?
There is so much to ponder and so little time.
Angie Wang is a Town Crier intern and senior at Castilleja School.