We were tabling on behalf of the church at some community Halloween event. I don't remember which event, really, but remember that I was in a witch costume. It's still my go-to, making use of an old graduation gown. All I had to do was add a hat and some other accessories.
That night, a witch and a tourist sat together at the church's table, handing out candy and information. I also have a photo of the witch me with Jesus, just for fun, but I digress. As we were sitting there, I saw a little girl about seven talking with a woman I assume was her mom. Her mom was clearly encouraging the little girl to come over, presumably for candy.
Instead, when she was finally convinced to come over, she did so cautiously, and in her very polite seven year old voice asked, "Excuse me. Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"
It was not the question I was expecting, so I smiled warmly and answered, "Oh, I'm definitely a good witch!" I may have offered her some candy, but I don't remember. I have long remembered her question, though. Had I thought about it very much, of course I was going as an evil witch. My black hat and gown, my green skin, my green gloves that lengthened my fingers, and my pointy shoes all said evil witch. I was pretty much channeling Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny or the Wicked Witch of the West. No pink-clad Glinda was in sight.
Of course, confronted with a curious seven year old, I responded that I was a good witch. More than that, though, I think about her mom, encouraging her daughter to be so brave. The little girl came up to me on her own. She asked her question all on her own. She overcame her fears of the witch to do all of those things. And when she happily ran back to her mom, she had learned that things weren't quite so scary as she imagined.
This week, neighbors have been attacked in so many ways. They have been killed for being black, for being Jewish, for being trans, for being Latinx, for just being. In light of this, I am even more mystified by this little girl who bothered to ask. She walked into her fear instead of away from it. When she did, she found something far different than she imagined.
I am reminded of Jesus' teaching that the Reign of God belongs to children just like these (Matthew 19:14). When preaching that passage, I most recently talked about the inherent vulnerability of children. Now, I'm thinking I should have talked about the bravery and curiosity of children. They learn something new every single day. They go into the world expecting something amazing. They ask questions because they're used to not understanding. When they are scared, we expect them to engage their fears rather than run away from them. We expect them to learn the world is not so scary a place after all.
How much better we'd be if we had the same expectations of adults.