Since I was young, I've always wanted a nickname. When others give you a moniker, it indicates a kind of intimacy. It must feel good to have those you belong with confirm that belonging by choosing an endearing quality about you and dubbing you with a special name. Even silly names often reflect a fun event in the history of a relationship. In fact, one of my favorite Bible promises has long been Revelation 2:17, which says "I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." A sort of a nickname straight from God, in my mind.
That's not to say that I didn't have a nickname growing up. My first name, unfortunately, rhymes with the name of a particularly odious canned meat product made, nominally, of spiced ham. The coincidence was not lost on the average American schoolchild, so rather than my given name, I was often called by the name of the "food" item, instead.
Nickname - good. Processed meat - bad.
When I first became a Christian, I felt strongly about not participating in Halloween. It just seemed wrong, given its history and its spiritual significance, which continues even to the present. For many years, my husband and I would purposely go out to dinner rather than stay home during trick or treat time. However, about four years ago I was very touched by a post I read on a homeschooling forum. A mom much like myself shared that she'd felt the same way, and even had a good excuse not to join in - her family lived on a house at the top of a solitary hill. It would be quite a hike for little ghouls and goblins to reach their home, not that she desired to participate, anyhow. But one day a Bible verse touched her: the passage in Matthew 5 that says that a city on a hill can not be hid, and to let your light shine before men. From that time, she has thrown on the lights and made her home on a hill bright, welcoming those who would come and hoping to shine a spiritual light in her neighborhood. She really got me thinking.
A little further in the conversation, another mom related how they handed out hotdogs every year. "Huh?" I thought. "Hotdogs? That's a little nuts." But the more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea. Once per year the whole neighborhood comes right to my door. What better way to meet people than to give them something they would value? They'll surely stay a few minutes and chat. I shared the idea with my husband, and after some prayer, he agreed that we would try it.
October 31, 2008, we brought our barbecue onto our front walk and began grilling our Halloweenies. Even though it's an urban neighborhood (or perhaps because of it), we don't get a whole lot of folks trick or treating. But what fun it was to ask a group of costume-clad travelers if they wanted hotdogs. None of them had ever heard of such a thing! The idea took a few seconds to process. Sometimes they asked how much we would charge them. Sometimes they appeared distrustful. But for the most part, they came, enjoyed a hotdog, and spent a few minutes talking. We had a wonderful time! We met neighbors, shook hands, and even prayed with a few people. We had tracts available because they were stamped with the church address (and often, when people hear that my husband is a pastor, they want to know which church he leads).
We've given out hotdogs every year since, and this was our fourth year. Once we also gave out juice boxes, but that got a little messy. The next year we changed it to hot apple cider, which most parents welcome as the chilly day draws to an end.
This year was extra special. Really, really special. You see, right around 5:30 we saw two families traveling together. While they were still across the street and nearly a block down, one little girl began to jump up and down. "It's the hotdog lady! The hotdog lady!" she yelled. The group walked a bit faster - one family of kids were eager to have a quick meal, and the other were excited to see who on earth would hand out hotdogs for free.
I was chatting with another mom, whom I'd met the year before, when her husband called. He wanted to know where to meet her. "I'm at the hotdog lady's house," she told him, and he needed no further description.
Ah. At long last. My dream has come true!
Nickname - good. Processed meat - good!