For the next week we walked a different route to school each day, each further out the way than the previous. We then made maps of our course and presented them to our parents.
"Why in the world would you guys want to do this?" my mom asked as my father smiled and shook his head.
"The candy mom, we can get far more candy this way. We will go farther, but it will be worth it." Simple, honest, ambitious and detailed in a manner that our parents would know where we were. The insinuation was that we wanted to do it alone and did not want parents slowing us down.
"We'll see." I hated that response. It usually meant no. A few days later I was told yes as I departed for school to meet up with my friends. They had received their yes responses that morning as well. (We never stopped to think our parents had discussed it collectively before giving us the okay.) The closer to Halloween it became, the more excited we grew while making small adjustments to our plan. Our bags were traded for king size pillow cases to accommodate the anticipated load. We would walk to school debating the fastest way to make the trek. Up one side of the street, down the other and crossing over blocks on the side of the street that had the most Halloween decorations on display. As little double tracking as possible would be essential. The plan was committed to and we were ready.
Halloween came that year accompanied by a vicious storm. More sleet than snow, but were in. We set forth as my older sister was arriving to take my younger brother and sister out to make their candy rounds. My mother and father were "leaving for the evening."
And so it would be. Into to the sleet and snow we ventured across the railroad tracks on our little quest for record setting amounts of Halloween candy. The weather was brutal; the stinging sleet drove most back to their homes and was as unrelenting on us as we were to our commitment to set a new candy record. Up and down the streets we endured for hours. Faces, hands and feet frozen, pants soaked as we finished the last long block and headed back to our good old neighborhood. The weight of the frozen bags of candy, the wind sheering into our faces was worth the accomplishment. Hard work pays.
Crashing in the front door, completely miserable and completely satisfied. A failed Halloween for others brought huge rewards for us; all because we opted to endure rather than quit. The evening of pain would be followed by days and weeks in which to reap the candied fruits of our labor. With such little competition, the rewards were all the more plentiful. Those investing in candy for the kids did not want to waste it. The handfuls got bigger and bigger as the evening progressed. Our enemy in the weather turned into an asset. All ruined by an older sister.
"Wow Paul, that is a lot of candy! Since your brother and sister had to come home early, we are going to split yours up so everyone has the same amount!" No recognition for the pain suffered in acquiring it. My reaction was one of forced resistance to protect not my candy, but my effort. A battle ensued that would require the bag to ripped only from my dead, tightly clinging, still painfully cold fingers. If she came too close, I am sure that frozen bag would have hurt. To fight hard to acquire something in life requires hard fought efforts to protect it from entitlement.
Hours of pain and suffering to reap a third of its rewards? Not hardly.
My parents walked in the back door. Come to find out that in order to allow us to go on our little trek meant that one of the parents had to follow us; my father was the only one with a car (that worked anyway). Several times my mother sought to interrupt and reel us into the car to save us from the elements. My father told her that if we were still going house to house, we were fine. If we stopped and headed back home not accomplishing what we set out to do, they would give us a ride home.
Dad this time intervened. "Paul will decide who gets what of his candy, if any; no one else will decide that for him." His baritone voice echoed in the form of the ultimate Johnson family trump card sparing my sister from a twenty plus pounds of frozen candy ass whoopin'.
He saw what I went through to get it and did not want to see me robbed of the sense of accomplishment. And of course, he knew there was no way in hell I could conquer a bag of candy more than half the weight of myself. The rule was that all Halloween candy had to be first inspected by an adult. The bag got dumped out all over the dining room table. Pounds and pounds of it. Things I loved, things I hated, things I had never before seen. Back into the bag it all went; every single piece of it. My mom did not even pilfer her favorites as she was inspecting it. It was mine... all mine. I called my brother and sister and gave them all the favorites they could possibly tolerate.
It was my choice to share; ultimately I shared more to each of them than they gathered on their own, far more. It felt good to share, but far better to work hard in order to be able to. To be robbed of that is criminal.
We forget that to have more, generally means you have to work harder to gain more. What is seen is the accomplishment, not the effort and sacrifice. We seek to remove the fruit completely absent of processes involved that took to grow it.
To my older sister Janice, my riches of candy were wrong because others had too little in comparison. "It wasn't fair." she said.
What would have been fair to her was me going with them and everyone having less, or of course, myself or anyone else not having more would have also been "fair."
Because others acquire more only demonstrates that those who do not acquire more can if they apply themselves in similar fashion. For some, the guaranteed handout of entitlement is motivation to not effort such a trek in the bitter realities of a hard and harsh economy. In entitlement is safety from failure. The protection from not having to take the risk of the journey while being granted a portion of the accomplishment of another. Ironically, we all want to be the ones with a bit more while in turn we allow the punishment of those who have succeeded. It is good to want, evil to have.
It wasn't that I wanted to have more candy than anyone; I just wanted to enact a plan that few others were willing to in order to accomplish the task at hand knowing the rewards could be plentiful. Several had the choice, only few opted to actually go for it. This is hardly “unfair.” Because the few had the riches of the candy, did not make all entitled to it. What makes all entitled to it is that all must be willing to embark upon the trek and accept the risks associated with it. Short of that, they are entitled to only what they are willing to effort and risk to obtain. This is the difference between the progressive desire of equal outcomes versus the American intent of equal opportunity.
No one person has the right to demand otherwise. It is amazing how hard that is to figure out. Once upon a time, entitlement meant; “to earn the right to.” Whatever happened to that?