Mike and I grew up in the United States, and we both participated in walking younger children around on Halloween. When we began to travel, we were in foreign countries for this day.
One of the years we were in Chile. Because we were in a cabin in the small town of Bahia Inglesa, and I knew that there were children around, I went shopping to find Halloween candy. There wasn’t a chocolate bar in sight. The only thing they were selling were bags of hard candy, mints or gumballs. I finally asked the sales clerk and she said they didn’t traditionally give their children chocolate for Halloween. Also, the costumes they had for sale were not as flashy or as costly as they are here in the United States, so even buying a costume or dressing up isn’t as big a deal.
Mike and I had never heard of such a thing, and because chocolate was so cheap in Chile by our standards, we proceeded to buy chocolate bars for Halloween.
On that night our doorbell rang and it was a single lone child. He lived in the complex where we were staying, and I had seen him around before. He always looked sad and lonely. The little guy broke my heart every time I saw him. He most likely expected to find the same hard candy in our candy dish that everyone else had so when we produced a pretty good sized chocolate bar his face lit up, and he smiled like I had never seen him smile before.
Within half an hour he was back with three friends and they each got a candy bar. Smiles and choruses of ‘gracias’ brightened the night air. We were making friends. Thirty minutes after that he brought back another group of friends and they too got chocolate bars. More smiles and more thanks. This continued until we had exhausted the fifty bars of chocolate we had to give, many of them to the same kids because they came to the door over and over again.
I remember crying that night because a simple bar of chocolate made a difference to those children that night. They were smiling and happy and sharing a memory with each other. So many of the children here in the United States take what gets put into their Halloween sack for granted. It was nice to be someplace where what we gave away on Halloween was so special.
The next day when we were out walking around, the same children saw us and pointed and smiled and said hello and we heard them say to their parents, ‘They are the ones! They are from the United States!’ And even their parents smiled and said hello and waved at us.
Building relationships has to start somewhere. You just never know as a traveler how or when that relationship will begin. Every act we do while traveling speaks volumes to people about us as Americans. I try to remember when I travel I’m not just sightseeing; I’m an ambassador for my country.
May everyone have a safe and happy Halloween.