Carving pumpkins. What a festive fall thing to do! Why, I can’t imagine another way I’d rather spend my Tuesday evening than scraping out the guts of a squishy gourd and continually impaling the hard surface to make strategically placed holes, so that later a roaring flame can be thrust inside in and the defeated gourd can sit spookily outside in the lonely cold and scare little children with the shadowy figures that prance upon its surface.

But this year was different. I set out to carve a pumpkin just like any other Halloween, but I didn’t anticipate the upcoming challenges. I had been searching on The Google for a cute stencil to try. It had to be a perfect one, something kind of original, but definitely recognizable. No one wants to carve a pumpkin and have everyone say “soo… what exactly is that supposed to be?”

So I found it, the perfect stencil- a cute little grim reaper. Now I know grim reapers aren’t supposed to be cute, they reap people’s souls, but this one had a decisively cartoony look about him. I fell in love and immediately decided to print him out. I triumphantly showed him to my fellow group members, and happily set off to carve this “spooky” figure into our pumpkin.

It was a daunting task. After letting my team do the grunt work of scraping out the seeds, I stenciled the figure onto the pumpkin. Then we carefully removed the negative space to let his glorious outline emerge. He stood there, ready for action, just waiting to reap a pumpkin soul. A determined glint under his hood showed that he was eager begin his work.

But then I got an idea. To make this little guy truly original, I would give him a heart! A look of fear came into the darkness under the hood and I swear I detected a hint of trembling, but I didn’t care. I lunged for the reaper and gouged out a heart in the center of his cloak.

But the trembling didn’t stop. Instead, a faint, eerie sort of sobbing began to arise from the pumpkin. I thought, “oh know, what have I done?” I tried to comfort the formerly heartless man, but he continued to sob. I then realized what my terrible mistake was. You can’t give a grim reaper a heart! He has to be heartless so he can reap souls without worrying about the desolate families or the unfinished dreams of the dying people he carries off.

Well, the solution was obvious. It would be absolute torture to ask this hooded figure to continue collecting souls for the underworld now that he had a heart; he would end up breaking it. So, I decided to give him a new job. I whispered my solution in his ear, and I swear I saw a faint grin peak out from the inside of the hood.

So, the next time you see a grim reaper when you’re out trick or treating, watch him closely. He might be bent over a pumpkin, carefully carving a new jack-o-lantern. Or, he might be placing those lanterns in places where it is dark and spooky. His goal is to guide anyone who is lost back to their homes. Instead of reaping souls and stealing them from where they belong, he helps people return to their proper places in the world. Way to go, little man.