I saw a 1970s Saturday Night Live episode after posting this article that had a person trick-or-treating for UNICEF, so it wasn't some kind of new thing. However, it was new to me.
I understand that UNICEF probably does some really good charity work. I’ve often complained to Lisa that religious organizations tend to focus on building churches rather than helping with basic needs, like water, and UNICEF promises to fix that problem with $500 water pumps. Really, I’m all for $500 water pumps instead of sending World Bank loans to build infrastructure or even free clothing that puts local producers out of business. I think that free(ish), clean water is the most important necessity to mankind. That said, UNICEF and other charities should not try to hijack even the most greedy of American holidays for their own benefit, even if it is for the benefit of others.
James and Helena came home with tiny UNICEF boxes that read “Trick-or-treat for UNICEF” on them. The front also says, “Kids helping kids.” James’s teacher explained it more than Helena’s but the idea is that kids don’t need more candy. Instead, they should ask for a donation to help kids. James said it was all to help fight a disease from bacteria called Unicef. I told him it was the organization that was trying to help, not the name of the disease. However, if organizations use manipulative methods to get our money, maybe they do eventually become as diseased as the traditional advertisers in our country.
Anyhow, James was excited about trying to do a fundraiser instead of trick-or-treating. Helena doesn’t like candy that much, anyhow, and she’d said she would hold the UNICEF box instead of a candy container. I almost let it happen, too, but I made James practice what he
was going to say. No matter how hard he tried, he could not make it sound right, even when I tried to coach him. The problem is that Halloween is the one day of the year that it’s expected all of the neighbors open their doors to the greedy little neighbor munchkins. Sure, you might get an extra greedy heavy kid who takes twice as much as you allow or you might get the grandma who has a bag for the grandson she says is in the car, but everyone is pretty much playing the same singular game.
Is UNICEF better than any of the other charitable organizations that claim to help kids? My kids already do several fundraisers at school. Some are for the poor, the diseased, or just for their own school or scout troops. Would the neighbors really want James to show up with Cub Scout order forms and Helena to show up with Girl Scout Cookies on the same day as everyone else is there for free candy? Would those neighbors even open the doors if they knew every kid had a hidden agenda beyond bouncing off the walls with a sugar rush later that evening?
Maybe I’m a little sad that Christmas is all about presents rather than Christ or that Halloween has become more about candy than celebrating those who have passed, but we are pretty much stuck with what the holidays have become. Sure, UNICEF can try to be the organization that gets us to care more about the welfare of other more than ourselves, but the whole idea left kind of a bad taste in my mouth, kind of like one of those sour candies.
My kids are going to donate any change neighbors give them in lieu of candy and some of their own savings to UNICEF. However, the kids will not be asking the folks around here for a donation of money while trick-or-treating, and if any little rug-rats show up at my door asking for money on top of free candy, I will give them free candy.