Have you ever heard of The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES)? If you haven’t, it is a week long event held by Misha Collins and Random Acts of Kindness. People register and either choose or get placed on a team of 15 people; then when the hunt begins they get a list of items that range from ridiculous and eccentric to kind and charitable.
Each item is assigned points and the team with the most points gets the grand prize. Although there are some competitive teams, there are also teams that simply compete for fun. Unfortunately, I must inform you that the last one concluded on August 12, but there is something in the works that, at this point, is only known as CFG. This year I was on a team with my friends, and it was truly an amazing experience. I wanted to write this article about the good impact that GISHWHES has had on people.
With items this year that included handing out painted rocks with kind messages on them to strangers, playing video games with a child in a hospital, donating food to a local women’s shelter, and granting Fiona’s last wish to be able to know that Dancescape, her dance school in South Africa, would have the financial support to keep running after her death there was a lot of good to come from this year’s hunt. So, I asked the Facebook group The GIsHWheS Network - Side Chat for people to tell me their stories about how GISHWHES inspired them or those around them.
One of the responses I got was from Alison Sylvester who talked about how she completed an item that involved delivering comfort bags to a hospital or cancer center in honor of a past participant who had beat ovarian cancer but could not participate this year due to illness:
“We live between two larger oncology units. I actually tried calling one, but it was after hours. I almost gave up doing the task because I wasn't sure I could fit it in. While doing the maple syrup item I was talking to my mom and my brother's girlfriend. They told me about an oncology clinic right here in town. So, I ran around town, gathering supplies, and putting the basket together. When I brought the basket to the clinic, they were speechless. They wanted my address to write me a thank you note (I didn't give it to them). They were so touched that I would think of them. Because we are between the two larger units people often overlook the local clinic. I've decided that each time I go shopping I will pick something up for the clinic and bring them regular gift baskets.”
Another response was from Michelle and it was about how she enjoyed the items that made her go out of her comfort zone. They allowed her to connect with people she wouldn’t have met or talked to otherwise. She talks about making others smile and even getting a few hugs.
Then there was Maria Sanguedolce who said:
“It spreads Love through ART, spontaneity and creativity...it taps what is most human in us to highlight our similarities and strengthen those connections. It brings families, friends and strangers closer together while expanding their horizons. The whole world unites to make a tangible difference in lives we might never know or touch otherwise. What better way to evolve and solve on a global level? And it is crazy fun!”
These are the types of responses I was expecting to get and I’ve seen many of these stories posted in GISHWHES Facebook groups. The good that comes from this is incredible and impacts so many people, but the first comment I got took a little different spin on what I asked.
Kimberly Rastin made a good point when she said:
“GISHWES inspired me by showing me my privilege. It got me thinking about impacts and unintended consequences.....”
She then proceeded to talk about how people spend lots of money on items and post in the group about how they bought all of something like bananas or jello from a local store. Her issue is that it seems like the hunt was for people who had more disposable income, and excluded people who didn’t. This led to an interesting and civil conversation about how, although the hunt started as more about the acts of kindness and the other items were meant to be done with stuff you could find around your house or reach out to others for, it has escalated to a point where it was slightly ridiculous. It seems like the consensus reached was that there were issues with it, but this might be why this was the last year of the hunt and we are hopeful that CFG is more charity and acts of kindness based.
All of this got me thinking though, it’s easy to focus on an issue and pick a side of good or bad. It would have been easy to just tell Kimberly that her concern was trivial and she was wrong to be concerned by it because the good done was more important, but instead everyone who responded was respectful and seemed open to her idea even when defending the hunt and this was then mirrored by Kimberly’s support for the hunt in regards to the items that didn’t require as much if any money to complete. This is what gives me hope.
When it seems like America (and possibly other places, but I can only speak about where I am from) is becoming more and more black and white in ideology it is refreshing to see people who can look at a different opinion and have a discussion about it rather than an argument. As I think about it I have found several groups on the internet that have this ability, and I think there is more of it around than we realize. Still, it is easy to focus on the good or bad of an issue and label it only one of the two, but that is very rarely the case. It can be easy to look at something like GISHWHES and trivialize the bad because of the good, but it doesn’t really work that way. Good and bad don’t cancel each other out. Just because something does more good than bad doesn’t mean that the bad shouldn’t be looked at objectively and eradicated with solutions thought of by people discussing the issues thoroughly. Just as when something that is more bad than good doesn’t mean that the good isn’t good enough; just that the bad needs to be addressed and again looked at objectively.
Here's to hoping that although this year was the last GISHWHES the giving spirit remains. Who knows, maybe CFG will be GISHWHES with a more charitable and acts of kindness focus with less monetary items.
The watermelon sculpture that is the cover photo was an item from this year's hunt and this particular picture was from my teammate Maja.