Confronting a Ninja Turtle

“Trunk or Treat?”

Yep…that’s what I said, “Trunk or treat?”

Our church has an annual event the Saturday before Halloween called “Trunk or Treat”. I do not know who thought it up, but this year about a hundred parents and kids showed up to visit the Halloween-decorated trunks of about 20 cars. Goblins, Winnie the Pooh, Dorothy, a Marine Sergeant, ghosts and a myriad of other characters toured the parking lot, helping themselves to a plethora of candy just waiting to be extracted from buck-toothed carved pumpkins residing in each trunk. It was a blast.

Walking across the parking lot to join the line at the hot dog stand, I was confronted by a 3-1/2-foot high Ninja Turtle. He stood in front of me menacingly, preventing me from reaching my desired destination. He said nothing. This Ninja Turtle was all business. He was on mission from God to stop old P.J. from satisfying his hot dog craving.

It would have been impolite to step on him, so I acted very frightened and asked, “W-w-w-ho are you?”

“I’m a Ninja Turtle, “ he answered.

Eyeing the ever-growing line at the hot dog stand, I replied, “Do you see my wife over there? Why don’t you go over and attack her? She would enjoy it.”

But he was a Ninja Turtle on a mission. I was that mission. He would not be moved.

“Are you really a Ninja Turtle?” I asked.

He flipped back his mask and his adorable little face, full of joy, smiled at me.

“It’s me!” He said, “Mom wouldn’t let me bring my sword.”

“I think your Mom was right, after all I was very scared with you just being an unarmed Ninja Turtle. Acting frightened again, I asked, “Are you sure you are not a Ninja Turtle?”

“It’s me! Ethan!” he said and gave me a big hug. Then, he put his mask back on and dashed off to the next trunk and Ninja Turtle mission. I made a beeline for the hot dog stand.

The next day I took a walk. I thought about Ethan saying, “It’s me!” It reminded me of a young man who spoke to a group of us after we watched a documentary about the Rhode Island Training School. The young man had been incarcerated there. His life’s story was one of the stories told in the documentary. His story was both disturbing and moving. It was disturbing because of the difficulties this boy faced growing up, a living hell that no child should ever have to face. The story was moving because it was clear that, through the efforts of some very caring people, he was beginning to rise above that hell and could envision a much better future.

I was so moved that I asked him, “What can we do to help? Is there anything we can do to help you be the person you want to be?”

He thought for a moment and said, “Say hello to me when you see me on the street!”

All that young man needed and wanted was for somebody, ANYBODY, to pay attention to him, somebody to CARE! That’s all Ethan wanted, too. That is all most of our kids desire: some attention, a little caring, a lot of love.

A certain man from a tiny village in Israel always paid attention to kids. Just to make it clear, he said, “Bring any kid you want to me, because kids are the essence and stuff of heaven.” Might I suggest that we go one step further? Why not create a little heaven in the here-and-now? When we see a kid on the street and he or she looks at us with a wide-eyed innocence that says, “It’s me!” — Stop, pay attention, care a little, love a lot and a little slice of heaven will be created on earth.

Now I’m forgetting about more hot dogs. I’m off to find me another Ninja Turtle or two.

John E. Holt, Cotuit, MA

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