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When neighbors leave Halloween candy unattended, how much is right to take?

Every year on Halloween night, I spot something bewildering. I spot something that makes me audibly gasp, guffaw, or simply gawk. This year was no exception. The moment took place long into the night, catching me more off guard than usual.

*          *          *

Rewinding back to earlier during Halloween evening, I sat by the window watching the sun set. I had scarfed down dinner and pulled on my costume, only to wait for my mom to finish as well.

“The candy will still be there in fifteen minutes,” my mom told me. That was easy for her to say. She was only a bystander in the game of gathering sweet treats from neighbors. I was a player. After enough pleas and other people going outside, we finally joined the parade. The golden glow of the sun waving “goodnight” kept my breathing even. In my mind, I had all night to collect sweets from around the neighborhood. I sauntered along the sidewalk, letting the giddy five- and six-year-olds sprint past, knowing they had to be in bed by nine o’clock. As darkness descended, I became those giddy kids running from door to door. The night was growing, and so was my desire for candy. I passed numerous empty houses as I traipsed down the unlit sidewalks. With each step I heard my boots scratching against the ground, creating a rhythmic thump-thump. The bag handles sank into my flesh, slowing me down. That didn’t stop me from going on. I half-skipped between doorsteps, my “Trick or treat!” bouncing as I spoke it. I powered through the night because within those dark alleys were the treasure troves of Halloween.

Many of these dark houses were accompanied by bowls of candy. Attached to these bowls were signs saying “Please Take 1” (or “2,” if I was lucky). These directions posed a moral dilemma. As I dug through the bowls, I wondered, Do I follow my own goals, or obediently do as told?

The devil on my right shoulder would respond, “Take as much as you want. Everyone else probably does that too. Besides, the homeowner won’t know.”

The angel on the left argued, “Just because everyone else does it doesn’t mean you should. The homeowner just wants everyone to get the same amount of candy!”

Perhaps I was influenced by the demonic costumes I had passed that night, but the devil got its way. These voices took me back to every time I was on the playground, thinking about sitting on top of the monkey bars or standing on the swings. Those same voices bantered, the devil winning. On the playground, the hawk eyes of my teacher had caused the dilemma. Getting caught was always a risk. Here, what risk did I have? There was no one to scold me for my actions, except for the angel, who was not surprised, just disappointed. Besides my mental angel, though, I could also envision the disappointed faces of potential parents who might have witnessed those crimes. I did not want to hear the bitterness laced into their scolding voices.

Peekaboo My Pumpkin

I kept pondering the situation as I dug through the bowl like a racoon, looking for York Peppermint Patties and looking past Twizzlers and lollipops. I could taste my mint-chocolate reward as the cubes of chocolate ran around my foraging hands. In my mind, I had to push the dirt away to find the diamonds. When leaving the scene of the crime, the angel pounded on the door of my mind, refusing to be shut away; after all, it was not wrong. As I contemplated, though, someone else’s angel might not have even had a say.

I saw a young boy skipping towards a house with an unmanned candy bowl which I had just left. Will he do as told, or be self-serving like me? I wondered. I gaped at what he did next, though. With full confidence, he grabbed the entire bowl and in mere moments poured all the candy into his bag and dashed off.

Immediately, I wondered if I should have done the same. Though the extra candy would be heavier, I could trade it with my brother to get what I treasured most. Now, rather than feeling slightly guilty for my actions, I wished I could have done what he did. I wished I’d had the nerve to do so without any mental quandaries. At the same time, I liked that my morals were strong enough to keep me from doing the same. By the time I left the cul-de-sac, I did not know whether I agreed with him or not, but I definitely could not have blamed him.