There’s a game I used to share in my conference-planning days because it could quickly unite a diverse group of people who didn’t yet know each other.
Called “The West Wind Blows,” it has players sit in chairs arranged in a circle while one person in the middle calls out different sorts of descriptors such as “The West Wind blows on everybody wearing socks” or “The West Wind blows on everyone who’s ever gone skiing.” If the description applies to you, you stand up and scurry to another place in the circle.
In order to be a good sport and keep things lively, you have to move out of the “safe” comfort zone of simply swapping places with someone next to you and strike out into the circle itself. If the chairs are all filled before you find a new one, you get the privilege of being the one in the middle trying to think up the next description until you’re able to rush to an empty seat again.
At its best, this game keeps everyone moving around, often for quite some time, and just about all ages can play it together. Within minutes, this resource can weld a motley group of 50 adults and children into a bustling, giggling mass of happy humanity all focused on the same thing. It’s one of those opportunities that gives everyone permission to let down barriers to knowing each other when we’re sometimes not even sure why those barriers exist in the first place.
As many games do, it also offers chances to model or reinforce positive kinds of behaviors. You have to cooperate and pay attention. You have to move skillfully and quickly while being considerate and careful of others’ movements.
And in order for the game to really be enjoyable, it absolutely has to avoid becoming competitive. In groups that can include grandparents, teens, schoolkids, parents, and toddlers, it doesn’t usually take long before big people start helping the very small ones and kids suddenly start giving up their seat to an elder or peer who’s having trouble getting out of the middle. (Not that being in the middle is such a bad thing.)
The variation and balance of similarities and differences is what seems key in this game, what keeps everyone attentive, and ensures that all will be included. Curiously, your best chance at getting out of the middle is to be as inclusive as possible. The greater the number of people you get up and moving, the greater your chances of finding a chair — and the more fun everyone has. You might say that inclusiveness is the game’s objective, and the way you reach it is by focusing on how much more similar we are than different.
A coming together of the world’s peoples in a relationship as harmonious, open, and welcoming as a good game of The West Wind Blows is clearly a need of our times, if a far more complex prospect. There seems little doubt that creating such a universal culture of collaboration and conciliation will require great, persevering effort on our part, as well as creativity, and compassion.
The job is big, the tasks complex, and many of the elements quite daunting. But the promise is big, and the reward unprecedented, if we can find the wisdom and will to truly embrace the diversity with which the Creator has gifted us and let it be the path to unity it’s intended to be.
Bahá’u’lláh reminds: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. … Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.”
And, lest we forget, feel frustrated, or think this all may not be achievable, it helps to remember the darkness it will dispel: “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
No matter what kinds of winds may blow on us, or how hard, it does appear that we’ll benefit far more by facing them together.
From Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details
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