Scavenger Hunt (definition): a game, typically played in an extensive outdoor area, in which participants have to collect a number of miscellaneous objects.
My mini van was occupied by two sensible adults and four overly eager, almost frenetic teens.
At each stop, the youngsters leapt from the minivan as soon as I put it in park and ran full force, which is pretty darn fast when you’re 14 or 15 years old. My adult copilot and I did our best to keep up, but a serious speed walk was about the best we could muster without risking injury.
“We need to save time,” one young man called out, as we neared a destination. Everyone had cell phones out, desperately searching for the fastest route. “Slow down as you approach the curb here and just open the door. I’m gonna roll out.”
Roll out? Really? – cause jumping from a moving car seemed a bit extreme for the First United Methodist Church Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt.
Television’s Amazing Race offers its winners a million dollars or so. But here, the organizers had only promised a pot-luck dinner at completion, yet these kids were treating this hunt with the urgency of Indiana Jones’ race to get to the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis could.
The R.A.K. Scavenger Hunt involved collecting random acts of kindness. We raced (or speed-walked for those of us over 30) to a location where we collected a specific list of hidden non-perishable food items. Then we ran full force to our car (speed walking is better for your knees) and drove off to a food pantry to shelve our items and accept another allotment of food; this one to be hand delivered to the home of an individual in need. From nursing homes to museums, we zigzagged across town, trying to beat the competition and shouting expletives at our smart phone GPS applications.
Scavenger hunts have been around since the 1930s, and first became popular with affluent members of high society, who hunted, not in minivans, but in Model A Fords. And whether an event sends folks out to perform good deeds or sends them searching for assorted hodge-podge objects, most scavenger hunts spark an intensely competitive spirit and a willingness to collect even the most outrageous objects.
In the 1936 comedy film, My Man Godfrey, which popularized scavenger hunts among the Great Gatsby era crowd, a shallow socialite had to acquire an unusual object – a homeless man. But this mad-cap comedy also had a lesson about goodness at its center, and our socialite learns from the down-on-your luck fellow and even falls in love.
So unexpectedly, the film’s scavenger hunt led to a life lesson. But our real-life Random Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt was teaching lessons by design, not by accident. Another scavenger hunt that purposely sets out to do good is G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. – the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.
GISHWHES is the brainchild of actor Misha Collins. Teams, often made up of individuals from several countries or continents, race to complete as many challenges as possible in seven days time and to record their accomplishment in photography. Each challenge on the list is assigned a point value and past examples have included acts of selflessness, like blood donation and volunteer work, and acts of ridiculousness, like placing nuns on rope swings and covering cars in shaving cream. Some higher point challenges, though, have been tougher to accomplish, like having the astronauts on the international space station hold up a placard showing a team’s name or covering a commercial blimp in fall leaves.
According to Misha Collins, all of the challenges set out to make the world a better place, either by bringing joy or by doing good acts. Kind of like our R.A.K. hunt, huh?
But GISHWHES does have one added incentive. The winners each receive an all-expenses paid lavish vacation, to hang out with Misha Collins. That prize might warrant rolling-out of a moving car a bit more than a covered dish dinner, eh? But luckily for all involved, GISHWHES rules prohibit dangerous acts, making car safety a priority. Misha Collin’s safety rules are approved by this nervous mother and would probably make Ralph Nadar proud!
So our team finished the R.A.K. Scavenger Hunt in not-so-record time and we earned a delicious pot luck dinner and a Dunkin Donut gift card. In spite of the running and yelling and competitive banter, we did good deeds, helped feed a hungry family, and even spread some joy. Not bad for an afternoon’s work.
Maybe we will tackle GISHWHES next! The list of challenges won’t come out until August 1st, but in preparation, we might need to make friends with a few nuns and look into the rental of a blimp.
Check out GISHWHES here: https://www.gishwhes.com/
Check out the First United Methodist Church here: http://glassboromethodist.org/
And check out our awesome team here!:
Our youth group wore matching green bandannas. These could have doubled as first aid bandages if needed, but since no rolling out was allowed – we were all okay!!
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