Twizzler, My Talisman: Kindness in Our Time

Being kind and generous, gentle and friendly, seems more important today

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By David Hammond

Procuring the right candy for Halloween was a little more challenging this year, as we'd decided not to purchase any chocolate products that might have been produced by slave and/or child labor. There's a lot of cocoa coming out of West Africa, and there's also a lot of evidence that this cocoa is produced, in part, by children, some subjected to forced labor.

Finding chocolate that doesn't come from one of the big manufacturers that may source from West Africa – Hershey, Mars, Nestle –  is not easy, and it is definitely more expensive. We bought less than we probably should have, so we ran out a little earlier than usual.

Turns out, we had maybe 250 trick-or-treaters come to our door. We ran out of candy early, and Carolyn started giving away tea, some single-package sausages, money, anything, all the while apologizing profusely, "We ran out of candy. We don't have any more candy." Hearing that, one child reached into his bag and handed her a Twizzler, "Here. Take this, lady."

Hearing this story, I was touched by that simple act of kindness and generosity. Being kind and generous, gentle and friendly, seems even more important today than it was just a few weeks ago.

Whether or not you support President-Elect Trump, I think we'd all have to admit (perhaps proudly): he's tough. This very toughness is, I believe, one of the reasons that we Americans elected him. Many of his supporters seem to believe that namby-pamby, bleeding heart, weak-willed liberals have been too easy on immigrants, Muslims, and others who they believe are threatening the American way of life. Part of the response to that perceived threat is to be tougher, harder, stronger, and, it seems, angrier.

This climate of anger, whether legitimate or not, is creating a tendency to attack the perceived opposition, verbally or physically. Hate crimes are on the rise.

I am not judging those people who supported Trump, nor am I judging supporters of Clinton or Sanders who are also venting their anger over what they may feel was a rigged election. What I am doing is taking every opportunity to be particularly friendly and polite toward my fellow citizens.  If someone cuts me off in traffic, I swallow my impulse to shout out a suggestion as to what he or she can do with him- or herself. If someone holds the door for me, I make a point of smiling and thanking them. If I catch the eye of a stranger while we walk down the street, I tip my hat.

As will no doubt be confirmed by many who post comments on this site, I'm obviously a total bastard (one person has even compared me to Hitler; really, it happened). However, in these times particularly, it seems best, in the immortal words of Bill and Ted, to be "excellent to each other." So that's my approach; I'm not saying it should be yours, but it doesn't seem that it could possibly hurt.

The Twizzler that young man gave to Carolyn on Halloween is on my desk now and that's where it's going to stay. It's a talisman, a reminder to resist the terror and tenor of the times and, whenever possible, to perform kindnesses and, in what might seem like nearly hopeless times, to hope that kindness catches on.

Reader Comments

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Tom Alan  

Posted: November 29th, 2016 12:18 PM

I like your article. I can find something to glean from every article I read. Let's be kind everyone.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 2:15 PM

You're welcome.

David Hammond  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 1:54 PM

"Sorry I don't feel the need to share how great of a human being I am...we have wells built in Malawi...amongst other things." Thank you for sharing.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 1:39 PM

Sorry I don't feel the need to share how great of a human being as I am as do you. And, yeah, we all have life experiences, don't need a Lifetime movie about a Twizzler to make us feel that warm and fuzzy. And once again, it's annoyance not rage. You give scraps to the homeless, we have wells built in Malawi...amongst other things. I would just like to read an article about food...at 3 a.m. when I'm planning my Thanksgiving menu. And I doubt you get too many angry responses from the oakpark.com site (granted you may write for others) b/c I may be the only one who actually reads your column.

David Hammond  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 1:13 PM

Coincidentally, my next "review" for this blog will be about a new local place that offers burritos and related foods. Unsurprisingly, my restaurant coverage sometimes generates a lot of angry responses, too. Oh, well, goes with the territory and the times we live in. Rage on.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 1:00 PM

wow David - bad burrito on your last restaurant review? Wait - couldn't be b/c this dining blog has nothing to do with restaurant reviews, but everything to do with your political opinions. I would actually prefer to know about local restaurants. I have no pent up anger regarding the election. I voted for Johnson. Wish he would have had a chance. What I do have is an absolute and total annoyance with using a dining column to further your "pat me on the back" progressive giddiness. You can turn a twizzler and chicken nuggets into a sermon. Placentas, bugs, and feeling righteous about giving your half eaten food to the homeless have nothing to do with dining in Oak Park. And next time don't be cheap and buy more candy.

David Hammond  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 12:13 PM

Ms. Tikkanen, the goal was not to find non-chocolate candy, but rather as stated "chocolate that doesn't come from one of the big manufacturers that may source from West Africa." Thank you for the lengthy and aggressively gratuitous listing of non-chocolate candy, which, though largely useless, supports my point that there's a lot of barely pent-up anger out there (especially from some who, like our consistently fuming President-Elect and apparently yourself, seem to prefer transmitting that rage electronically, very early in the morning).

Mike Hanline  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 11:04 AM

Because what kid doesn't love tea in his Halloween bag?

Barbara Joan  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 7:43 AM

how droll

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 2:51 AM

really...a kid with a Twizzler segues into a political harangue. Further, it's not a struggle to find non-chocolate candy. Starbursts, dum-dums, blow-pops, air heads, gummy worms, sour patch kids, paydays, gum (there are at least 10 varieties). I can name at least 10 stores within a 2 mile radius which have an ample supply of these. Why - b/c when I run out of candy I head there to get more. If you had bought enough candy then there would be no reason for you to write this thought provoking dining column. Just buy more candy next time. - Signed a person who had over 500 trick or treaters and didn't run out of candy.

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