Scavenging for Kindness

 Submitted Photo

Welcome to the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES), also known as a week full of people having tea parties in junk yards, creating homemade vehicles of mayhem and destruction, dressing up as stormtroopers to clean swimming pools, going down water-slides dressed as nuns, getting mountains on Mars and more. Why, one might ask, would anyone want to do something so seemingly odd? For senior Kate Bentivoglio, her journey started in front of a computer screen.
Two years ago, Bentivoglio was scrolling through actor Misha Collins’ Twitter page when she stumbled upon an event he was hosting called GISHWHES.At the time, she thought it was just weird. And impossible. And slightly crazy. Soon, she would come to find that the week was all of those things and much more. She set upon her first week of GISHWHES with a single friend, 13 strangers and no knowledge of what was to come.
Every summer, Collins hosts a week-long scavenger hunt that unites thousands of participants from all over the world that strive to complete tasks and scavenge for items on a 250-item list created by the GISHWHES team. During the event, teams of 15 earn “GISH points” for completing items on the list, and the team with the most points earns an all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic locale with Collins himself. The point, however, is not to win this trip, but rather, according to the GISHWHES website, is to make a difference, escape “normalcy” and commit to random acts of kindness, all while having fun in the process.
This year, Bentivoglio participated on a team named “Gnome Girls Love Hot Topical” with a combination of a group of her friends and a group from Wisconsin.
“I never really realized the impact that our service does until after GISHWHES,” she said. “That GISHWHES week, I was so happy. I was always smiling because I just enjoyed doing items. The items (that required) service really helped me open my heart, open my mind to the people I was helping. It helped me realize what I’m doing is really impacting them in a huge way; it’s really changing their lives.”

Submitted Photo

Beth Karaba, a member on Bentivoglio’s team from Wisconsin, participated in the scavenger hunt with the goal of spreading kindness and putting smiles on people’s faces.
Throughout the week, Karaba and her daughter did that by bringing ice cream to their local fire department, promoting breast cancer awareness, walking dogs at a local animal shelter and giving out what they called “kindness tickets” with kind words and good feelings to their neighbors.
“It’s shown me that even if your day is crappy, doing one little thing of kindness for someone else can turn your own day around,” Karaba said via email. “Helping people in the smallest way can bring a smile to their faces and also your own. Kindness breeds kindness.”
In one week, over 15,000 people came together from all over the world in order to complete the same goal of spreading the kindness that Karaba and Bentivoglio had.
Karaba said, “Every individual can be a catalyst for positive change in the world and in his or her own life.”

Submitted Photo

The positive change, however, was something that not only impacted the communities of “Gnome Girls Love Hot Topical,” but also impacted the way the members viewed themselves. Over the course of the scavenger hunt, each individual said they came out as slightly changed people.
For junior Mackenzie Gonzalez, another member of “Gnome Girls Love Hot Topical,” this meant getting out of her comfort zone and sharing a part of herself with the world. She chose to complete a photography task in which she was prompted to take a photo that says something about society. For her picture, she split her face down the middle, depicting two sides of her personality. Being half-Mexican and half-Caucasian and often being mistaken for a guy, she painted half of her face white with more masculine features and the other half with more makeup and feminine features.
“I was trying to portray a split person,” Gonzalez said. “You see me from one side and I look like one thing, and you see me from the other and I look like a different thing. (The picture) just shows how the individual can be affected by how society sees them.”
Gonzalez said she was originally nervous but eventually decided to just go with it and share her project with the world. She said she was glad she put herself out there and was less worried about how other people viewed her.
“Putting myself out there like that is not something I would regularly do,” she said. “What I was feeling about that kind of thing is not something that can be easily expressed,” she said. “But to see a physical manifestation of that was just calming and cathartic.”
Like Gonzalez, Bentivoglio also said the week was one that changed her and helped her find who she was.
“Most of my life I’ve been really quiet and insecure,” Bentivoglio said. “But with this, with all the team members, people who I didn’t even know and some of my really close friends, it really helped me come out of my shell and showcase my talents. It helped me get out there, go into the community, become less shy and enjoy who I am.”
Though “Gnome Girls Love Hot Topical” didn’t win any prizes, Gonzalez and Bentivoglio said the members spread kindness, grew closer with their communities and grew as people.
On the GISHWHES event website, Collins said he created the scavenger hunt to encourage people to escape normalcy. Collins wrote, “Maybe it’s giving us a chance to remember that the real possibilities open to us at any given moment are limited only by our imagination. At the very least, this lark, this GISHWHES, has given us the chance to see a nun go down a water slide, for which I will always be grateful.”

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Raiha Zainab