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Michael J. Nyenhuis, Americares President and CEO, has worked for more than 20 years to provide pathways to health for people who face formidable obstacles – everything from massive earthquakes to crushing poverty. He offers an informed and personal perspective on where we have been, who we are now and what the future might look like for the critical health issues and emerging crises that we confront everyday around the world.
Back in my day, kids wore Halloween costumes that leaned toward the ghoulish — ghosts, witches, the walking dead. Blood, bones and scary faces were the order of the day.
Today’s costumes seem less dark. I see a lot of superheroes and Disney characters. Maybe that’s better, but mimicking popular movie characters feels less creative. One of the great joys on Halloween night is opening the door to find the odd homemade costume that reminds us creativity still exists.
We almost pulled off one of those odd costumes when our son was in elementary school years ago. As Halloween approached, Jacob announced: “I want to be a black olive,” pronouncing olive as “oh-live”. Really? A what? We never did understand his motivation. We put black olives on our pizzas and tacos, but had no idea it made such an impression.
Our attempt at a sandwich-board black olive costume turned into an orange pumpkin after we convinced Jacob no one would figure out the big black circle he was wearing was an oh-live. Dreams were crushed that day, but we moved on.
I have a good idea for anyone still looking for that perfect costume this year: How about a relief worker? Kids like superheroes. The best relief workers are real superheroes. They courageously rush to difficult places and work where their safety and comfort are at risk. They bring aid around the clock to people whose lives, families, homes and livelihoods have been upended by natural disaster or conflict. Relief workers creatively problem solve to make good things happen against long odds. They show compassion, respect and dignity to the people they serve and bring hope where it is needed.
That seems worthy of imitation.
What would a relief worker costume look like? Well, start with worn khaki cargo pants, scuffed boots and an untucked t-shirt with the name of a humanitarian organization emblazoned on front and back. Place a lanyard holding a picture ID around the neck, muss up the hair and put a little dirt on the cheeks. You’ll need an old backpack to hold a few basic provisions (and all that candy later!). That should do it.
Oh, and remember: After collecting Halloween candy the relief worker would turn around to hand it to anyone who needs help. That’s what relief workers do, and that’s why they are superheroes.