6:17 p.m. on Halloween

Jill - Lakewood, Colorado
Entered on April 29, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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It was 6:17 p.m. on Halloween, after a sugar-infused afternoon of costume contests, pumpkin carving and scary stories. All the other kids were long gone, out trick-or-treating with their parents. Only two boys were left, 17 minutes after the daycare technically closed. They didn’t even notice, their parents were always late. Finally, with a scowl on her face, their mother appeared. Pleading, the boys asked, “Mom, are we going trick-or-treating?” The answer was a disdainful “no.” To my surprise, the boys didn’t cry or whine or contest. They simply picked up their backpacks, turned around, gave me a huge hug and said thank you for all the fun they had that afternoon. This story goes much deeper to one of ongoing neglect, but I’ve always remembered that particular moment. I’m still in awe of the fact that these children, the oldest only seven, were able to look past all the negativity in their lives and be genuinely thankful for an afternoon that many of the other kids took for granted.

I started working at a daycare when I was 15 and continued to work with children throughout high school and college. At age 24, I still babysit my boss’ kids. I keep a bucket of memories from these times and I always come back to a few distinct moments, like the one above. Moments I believe have helped shaped how I live my life. Moments that have framed my actions, my goals, my concerns.

In all my time spent working with kids, there have been many enlightening moments, each illustrating a different life lesson. Some are as simple as remembering to just have fun, while others are as profound as practicing unwavering love and acceptance. But that Halloween evening is a memory I frequently recall and represents one of my core beliefs. I believe in moving beyond the negative, pulling the best out of every situation.

Compared to the other issues I knew these boys were going through, the fact that they weren’t being taken trick-or-treating probably seems insignificant. But it reminds me that not everyone in the world is as lucky as I was as a child, or as I am now as an adult. Everyone faces hardships, and unfortunately, some face those hardships early on in life. Watching these little boys every day for three years, seeing their smiling faces and cheerful attitude in the face of constant negativity from the people who are supposed to love them the most, showed me that we can all find a brighter side of life – it’s just a matter of looking.

I must confess that while I strongly believe in “looking at the glass half full,” I don’t always practice it. I fall into my own thoughts, my own issues and forget to take a step back, as we are all guilty of at one time or another. When I feel myself spiraling into this mindset, I try to think of that Halloween evening. I remember how two small children, always with a smile, overcame adversity, just by holding a positive outlook on life and truly appreciating the good – even just a little bit – that can be found in any circumstance.