Why GISHWHES Matters


In August, I participated for the first time in GISHWHES – aka The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen! Led by the fearless and slightly crazy Misha Collins.

I wasn’t going to do it (“Too busy!,” thought I. “Who has the time for scavenger hunts? Young people, that’s who!”), but my intention for 2014 was to stay open to fun. Very last minute, I watched the video on the above page, and thought, “Damn it, that does look like fun. Now I have to do it.”

I am so glad I did! Since I have become a full-time fitness pro, what used to be my fun/hobby has become work. I mean, it’s still fun… but it’s work. So it’s been a struggle to make myself have fun, and GISHWHES definitely took me above and beyond the playtime I had managed so far in the year!

Yes, I must admit, taking pictures in a hot tub wearing an ice cream hat dripping down my forehead was way more delightful than I had ever imagined. (Even whilst trying to not get ice cream in the water and thus spend the week repaying your friend’s kindness with a deep-clean scrubbing.)


Also fun? Posing in front of monuments, and making duct tape heads of John Barrowman after work (though that nearly broke me, to be honest), and made this goofy picture (epic battle between Elopus and the Wooster):

My team was brilliant. They got a car to do a backspin in a junk yard. They got 3D printings of pen and ink. They got bestselling authors to make fools of themselves.

But this post isn’t just about how silly fun GISHWHES is. (It’s VERY silly fun.) I’ve been mulling over this post since William Shatner (yes, he had a team! Here’s his post about it.) asked his Twitter followers how much their team spent. Most people estimated a couple hundred. Some said a thousand or more. (Totally unneccessary, but okay.) Then someone said the money would be better spent on a charity.

That has really been bugging me ever since I read it. And here’s one reason: Charitable acts are inherent in GISHWHES. On our team alone, we had people volunteer at food banks, bring hot lunch to the homeless, and become bone marrow donors and CPR certified. There was a nursing home in Maryland that got a ton of visitors that otherwise wouldn’t have.

But okay, let’s say there weren’t charitable acts, or that those aren’t such a big deal. (I think they are a huge deal, but let’s just say.)

What mattered most to me is that it got me out into the world. I have lived in this city all my life, and had no idea how much I missed every day: how much I drove or walked by without really seeing. A bingo hall in the middle of the city? Packed on a Tuesday night. Sure, we shook things up by walking in as a superhero family, but it was just as big a deal for me. Every time I drive by the building now (it’s right off the highway), I think, “People play Bingo there!” I know that sounds silly, but it’s completely delightful to me. I had seen the building before, but now I see it.

The park across the street from work? I avoided it because of all the homeless people. For GISHWHES, I walked up to one of them and we got to know each other a little. I see them as individual human beings now, not just “homeless people.” (Yes, it embarrasses me to admit that’s how I was in the first place!)

Then I think, you multiply this by the hundreds of teams and thousands of people? That must have a massive impact on the world!

People write checks to charitable organizations, and that’s all well and good. Non-profits do such great work in the world, and I am not discounting that at all. But the impact of something like GISHWHES? Getting people out there, engaged with other people and with the world around them?

That’s way better than writing a check, if you ask me.



3 responses »

  1. You are absolutely right. I did GISHWHES for the first time last year. It was life-changing. As you said, I do see things differently now. I was also very introverted and terrified of embarrassing myself in public. I started off last year trying to figure out which items from the list I could possibly do. By the end of the week, I would’ve done any of them. I was very disappointed that I didn’t open myself up earlier and, therefore, couldn’t find a bird on Friday so that I could dress as a pirate and stand in line at the DMV. One of my favorites last year was the pictures of people hugging. I took over 65 pictures of myself hugging mostly strangers on the street, in Walmart, at the vegan restaurant, wherever. I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think about it. And my team did do charitable items. Last year the diaper drive, purchasing an item for the veterans house, donating blood. This year getting CPR certified, becoming a bone marrow donor., etc. But really, getting out there and experiencing the world around me and making it a better place through silliness and kindness really seems to be more of the contribution. And yeah, I spent a little more this year because if I was going to get a permanent tattoo of Pope Frances (my first tattoo at age 44) it was gonna be a good one; a very respectful anime version of him wearing a sock monkey hat (the unofficial symbol of GISHWHES), releasing the last year’s mascot, the Wooster, into the air. But it makes me very happy. Can’t take yourself or life in general too seriously with the pope in a sock monkey hat on the back and the Wooster peaking over your shoulder. I was always a nice person but, after GISHWHES, I’ve made it more of an objective to interact with people and try to bring a little happiness into the world on a personal level. I can’t wait for next year.

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