So, what do kale, two young adults, two aunts, and a waste water treatment facility have in common?
No, this is not the beginning of a really bad joke. It’s an amazing event that Coleton Emr and Genna Phillips are participating in called the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWES) created by Supernatural actor, Misha Collins. And it came to Lufkin on Aug. 4, 2015.
Emr contacted his aunt, Linda Jones, who is the Environmental Manager at the Waste Water Management Facility on Southwood Drive. “I was excited when he called,” she said. “I’m down for anything crazy and fun.”
That crazy and fun part happened to be Item Number 23 on a list of 213: Tour a wasterwater/sewage treatment factory dressed in formal attire with an accompanying violinist or flutist.
Martha Bailey is Coleton’s aunt, and was ready to help by playing the flute on the tour. “I thought ‘hmm, this is strange,'” she said, “but it sounded like fun!”
Strange does not begin to cover the mix of emotions standing there while Silent Night is playing on the flute and you are trying to keep lunch in your stomach while wearing formal attire.
But, that is essentially the premise of GISHWES.
“What is GISHWHES? On the surface it’s the world’s largest scavenger hunt. Just below the surface, GISHWHES is about creating art, pushing boundaries, perpetrating acts of kindness and, ultimately, redefining our perception of “the possible.”… By doing these unexpected things we’re actually in a strange way being reminded that life is full of possibility.” (www.gishwes.com/misha.php)
Emr and Phillips signed on for the journey. “I found out through a friend of mine,” said Phillips, a resident of the Conroe area. “She and I participated last year, and this year, Coleton said he wanted in.”
The two were not worried about finding or performing all two hundred plus items. They are part of a team of 15, with three in Texas, two in Oregon, one in Florida and three in Norway. “You sign up and make a donation that starts at $18,” said Phillips.
The donation benefits charity, and most of the items on the list are random acts of kindness. For instance, #118 says has participants clean up a park while simultaneously having a dance party and #129 tells them to leave notes of love or support on lockers of students who might need it.
The points aren’t high, just 53 and 27 respectively, but the impact is larger than the thrill of hang-gliding as a gishwhes mascot (#127, 133 points.) But, its not the points they are after, even though it is important. The scavenger hunt focuses on the quality of the item being turned in, not the value of the point. GISHWHES is about the experience while performing and capturing the moment. So far, the participants in the scavenger hunt have racked up an impressive list while making the world a better place.
“We can actually talk to a homeless person on the sidewalk or we can gather the courage to sing in public. An entirely different version of reality is open to us if we make ourselves available to it. We try to create a list that is challenging, thrilling and absurd. We like to see items that make us tear-up and laugh out loud. We like to have participants break out of their comfort zones, re-awaken their inner artist, and do a bit of good in the world. We’re proud to have broken several Guinness World Records including: the most global hugs, 108,121; most pledges to commit charitable Acts of Kindness, 93,376, which we did in partnership with our friends at the non-profit Random Acts (www.therandomact.org); and of course, let’s not forget the prestigious Longest Safety Pin Chain – over a mile long! We’ve also: delivered thousands of items to the homeless; raised the money to completely furnish every room of a home for a wounded veteran and his family (we’ll be posting videos for this soon!); had a Mars rock named after us by NASA; made Christmas trees fly; and have been reported on by news organizations around the world, including Al Jazeera.”
Following Emr and Phillips for a brief moment in the entire scheme of time, there was joy in the midst of…
– well, poo. A reminder that life can be good, maybe fun too, even if it stinks.
In the end, it may be worth all the work. By turning in the best combination of quality items and points, Emr, Phillips, and their team have the chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip with Misha Collins, this year traveling to Costa Rica “for volcanos, rainforests and gishwhes-style discotecking,” according to gishwhes.com. If not, these two, and their team, have purposefully made the world a better place.
For more on GISHWHES, and a chance to laugh and cry while at the same time while restoring your faith in humanity, check out this video.