My feet pound against the hard, cold asphalt. We have left the warmth of the beauty pageant where tears and smiles abound, and now, we run. I saw her slip away, sandwiched between two of her friends. I’d been watching her all night, but I made a mistake and gave away my plan. All I needed to do was tag her, my target, but I was wearing high heels, so when she darted between rows of empty theater chairs, and out the emergency exit, I was not quick enough. They made it quicker through the ally. Into their car, they locked the doors. I gasped for breath and walked to my car. My legs were shaking as I drove. I went down a different street to get in line with my target’s car. I followed them, telling myself that this creepiness wasn’t worth it as my calm music swirled around me, singing irony. They turned to go the opposite direction of campus, and my peaceful side won. I went back to my dorm instead of chasing them, because, after all, this was just a game.
But what a game it is. This is the season of the spoon game, a Shorter University tradition. To raise money for summer mission adventures, any student can pay two bucks for the privilege to play. We take their picture, pair it with their name, and then, our beautiful game makers (mission coordinators) assign everyone a target. Of course, everyone playing is also someone else’s target.
Alliances were formed over the weekend. On Tuesday morning, brave souls opened their mailboxes at 8:30 am (or sent trusted spies to the feeding frenzy), to retrieve a spoon and a target. The goal: tag your target before getting tagged with the spoon by the person who has you. As soon as you tag someone, they are eliminated from the games and their target becomes your goal. It is a massive game of coordinated tag and it is vicious.
Friendships are made and friendships are tested. People look both ways before they cross the hallway. “Want to meet for lunch in the caf?” suddenly becomes “I want to trap you so I can destroy you!!!” to a paranoid spoon game student. It’s common to hear “Did you kill him?” and think nothing of it, and it is common to see people chasing each other across the front circle. For the spoon game, people have jumped off balconies, climbed through classroom windows, and slept under cars. I’ve had ambushes waiting for me this week. The intensity has made me think, and as my roommate charted the cycle of who has who, I learned and relearned a few things.
- We are naturally selfish. I have been shocked by how quickly we revert to the I-must-survive, trust-no-one mentality. It is so easy to think only about destroying a target, and not about their feelings or their goals. When one alliance breaks, the person to break it is suddenly soulless, even though you are thinking about breaking your own alliances. The longer you survive, the more you want everyone else to die. We see our worst sides during the spoon game. It’s way too easy to be caught up in promoting yourself, your glory, and your success instead of helping others. Our selfishness is scary.
- You can’t always hide. As it turns out, I am a hermit spoon game player. I am still in (skills) but I haven’t eliminated anyone. I am comfortable hiding from anyone who could possibly hurt me, but at some point, I need to leave the room. Sure, this means I need to go to class and to work, but this has a way of being true for more than just the spoon game. I can’t always hide from my own problems, selfishness, and mistakes. Though I try, hiding is never a lasting solution. There are no second chances in the spoon game, and this is true no matter how long you hide.
- God is the only one you can trust. I jokingly mentioned this during announcements at Refuge. I have been around Shorter long enough to know that there will be betrayal during the games, and I was jokingly warning people not to take the games too seriously. But it is so true. Our own selfishness and untrustworthiness shows us how much we need the forgiveness of a loving and merciful God, and not just because of the spoon games. I cannot hide from the stresses or mistakes in life any more than I can hide from God’s powerful love. In the end, this is the message of the Gospel. We are naturally selfish creatures, we are animals of war, but God loves us. We only get one chance at this short life, and trusting in Him is the greatest and most rewarding path you can ever take.
- Having friends is the only way to survive. Sometimes, despite the possibility (or even probability) that they might hurt you, you have to simply trust your friends. You won’t last long otherwise. Despite it all, the spoon game is a time for fun with friends. We went to Walmart together on our last night of freedom, and we laughed so hard. A friend went to my mailbox to pick up my spoon. A group of wonderful friends ate quesadillas, chicken nuggets, and cookies as we hid and told each other who had who. We figured out the complicated questions together, and when one of us fell, we mourned, and then laughed at their story. Friends are so important to life, to growth, and to survival.
- Notice the moments. You notice the moments in the spoon game, good and bad. You’re more aware of your surroundings. Eating in the cafeteria suddenly becomes a luxury; it is not the solitary confinement of your room and cookies are amazingly different from eating eggs for every meal. The spoon game will be over soon, but these lessons will endure. Hopefully, I will still take time to look both ways, take it in, laugh with my friends, and trust in God’s forgiveness.
- Don’t wear heels during the week of spoon games.
Oh, and if you see anyone chasing me over the next few days, open the door and then quickly shut it, if you please!