When I was a kid, one of my favourite activities was the inevitable ‘scavenger hunt’– the more baroque and complex the clues– the better. The absurd combination of puzzles and geography was extremely satisfying. As I got older, the ubiquity of global positioning system (GPS) technology meant that there were new avenues of scavenger hunting: first geo-caching, then geographical alternative reality games such as Ingress.
However, this year, Mikayla and I have been participating in an all-new type of scavenger hunt, enabled by social media and smartphones. In 2011, actor Misha Collins started the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES), which has since been abbreviated just to GISH (thankfully). GISH brings together strangers from across the globe onto teams of 15, where, for one week a year they work together to complete absurd challenges and submit evidence of it.
Each participant pays a small fee to be part, one hundred percent of which goes to charity– and many of the challenges therein lead to different forms of charitable fundraising. Some are just silly! One of this year’s clues was itself a Caesar Box Cipher, which, when decoded instructed the reader to create an entire toga exclusively out of romaine lettuce leaves, snap a photo wearing it, and submit the evidence. Many challenges get people out of their boxes and out into their communities, often encouraging participants to meet up with others to complete tasks.
Although I have only just been involved this year, I can already see the amazing benefits of what seems like a silly endeavour. In a world in which people are increasingly isolated from one another, GISH uses technology to bring people together, and all for a good cause. It encourages us to transcend self-interest and cooperate for a greater good in a way we rarely have the opportunity to. Most of all, it cultivates a child-like fun and deeply encourages you not to take yourself too seriously!
GISH has won several Guinness world records, including: ‘Largest Online Photo Album of Hugs’ (2013) – 108,121 hugs, ‘Longest Human Chain to Pass Through a Hula Hoop’ (2014) – 572 participants, and ‘Most Pledges for a Campaign/to Complete a Random Act of Kindness. (2012) – 93,376 pledges. In my book, any project which gets nearly 100,000 people to pledge to do a random act of kindness is a net gain for humanity.
I’ve really enjoyed the somewhat-juvenile spirit of scavenger hunting this week, and I suggest that you keep an eye on it and consider trying your own hand at it next year. After all, there’s no harm that can come from getting outside your comfort zone to raise money for charity (although perhaps person #572 in that human hula hoop chain felt different.) 😉
If anyone is looking for a worthy cause to donate tsedakahto this week, here is the fundraising page for this year’s effort: https://bit.ly/2vddYVD