Sunday, October 26, 2014

A True Halloween Tale

Here’s a true Halloween tale for you to think about this week.
Halloween means different things to different folks.
A young lady I know found out through some mischievous and possibly illegal means that her boyfriend bought her an engagement ring and that he plans to propose on Halloween.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday,” she said. "I looked at his bank statement and called the jewelry store."
Her ring is to be in Friday.
Some of my happiest memories of childhood involve Halloween. The first Halloween costume I remember wearing was a plastic sheet and a plastic face mask that represented “Casper the Friendly Ghost.”
Each Sunday I watched “Matty Mattel’s Funday Funnies” on TV. That was the show that first gave us such memorable cartoon characters as “Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent” and “Casper.”
Cecil and his arch nemesis, Dishonest John, were voiced by an Elkhart TV personality. Yes, TV occupied much of my life growing up. Today, we would criticize parents who let their children watch TV that much but it seemed to develop my imagination while limiting my social skills.
That Casper Halloween costume was not fun to wear. It was hot and it was hard to see out the two little holes in the mask. Eventually, I swore off commercial costumes in favor of Halloween make-up that made me more scary but at least let my skin breathe.
We would all wear our costumes to class at Westside Elementary School and parade  before the younger classes. I’m not sure what purpose that served other than to help the teachers fill the day.
Now the weird story for this Halloween. I say weird because it was more strange than scary.
In high school I decided to attend the Bible-based Lincoln Christian College (now Lincoln Christian University.)
From an economic standpoint that was definitely a mistake for we all know ministers never make as much money in life as other professions -- as my dad’s elderly aunt Jessie, who was a retired school teacher, pointed out to my mother. It was Aunt Jessie who first thought I was a good writer and I'm sure she would have liked me to follow her footsteps and become an English teacher.
But the Bible gave me great comfort in those teenage years when my hormones were running high. The hormones have settled down 40-some years later but the Bible still gives me comfort.
When people learned of my college choice, I received invitations to speak at a few churches. Following a sermon at one small church at Hudson Lake, the minister asked me to spend a week on his staff at Michiana Christian Service Camp in Niles, Mich., just outside my home town.
I was the Recreation Director for the week and the campers were all in the third grade.
The week went well, with nothing really noteworthy except for the subject of this story.
He was a little guy who showed up for camp wearing a little brown suit, complete with shirt, tie and matching fedora hat. He was dressed like he was 60 years old instead of eight.
Usually, adults brought their children to camp and made arrangements to pay the fee.
This little boy just showed up. No one saw him arrive.
He proved to be a little dickens that week. He seemed to be trying the staff constantly.
Then, later in the week, he decided he wanted to be baptized.
We baptized children in the camp’s new swimming pool after calling their parents and their ministers. If the adults agreed, the children were baptized. I should mention that our church did not practice infant baptism and baptism came at a time when a person was added to the church.
We called his minister, a name no one seemed to recognize, and in those days before cell phones, we could reach no one at the church or parsonage. We tried to call his parents. Again, no response. So, we explained our policy to the little boy and much to his disappointment, he was not baptized that week.
Our dean, the minister who had invited me to go to camp that week, decided he would talk to the boy’s parents when they picked him up on Friday night at the end of the camping session.
But when Friday night came, the little guy, wearing his brown suit, matching shirt, tie and fedora on a hot and dusty summer evening, disappeared as mysteriously as he arrived.
I’ve often wondered about him. 
Years later, I asked the minister if he ever learned about the little boy. No, none of the other ministers in the area seemed to know anything about him.
I still wonder about the one worn by a mysterious and mischievous little boy at church camp who came dressed as a little old man so many years ago.

Frank Phillips is a freelance writer. His blog is found at frankphillips.blogspot.com and his e-mail address is frank.phillips@gmail.com.