Spot It!

A few years ago, I stumbled upon Spot It!, a party game distributed by Blue Orange in San Francisco and contained in a round metal can about the size of a donut. Inside are 55 round cards with eight symbols on each card. The game has more than 50 different symbols, but on each card only one of the eight symbols matches a single symbol on any other card. The object of the game is to spot the one matching symbol that is on both your card and the card in the middle before any of the other players call out their own matching pictures. It sounds so simple -- and it is in theory -- but it can be surprisingly challenging. At times the whole group has stared at those silly symbols for minutes, and would have sworn they had found the one card for which this game did not work, except for someone finally shouting, “It’s the clown!”Spot It! can be played with as many as eight folks of varying ages and abilities with equitable results. It quickly became the favorite activity when I would visit my “little” who more often than not taught her mentor a thing or two about the game. It was also the mainstay at the start of our summer day-camps each afternoon when the scorching summer sun drove the happy campers inside to the happy air conditioning. We recently had a neighborhood dinner at which we stuffed baked potatoes with chopped brisket and then stuffed our faces and settled in for the evening program. An assistant city manager gave us an overview of the scope of the city’s work and responsibilities in preparation for the next year’s worth of monthly dinners; a different city department will attend each one and talk more extensively about their duties. My co-worker blessed the barbecue and the beauty of this group -- folks who came together with possibly no more in common than this place, our neighborhood we all care about. It is true. When we come together on the second Monday of each month, we range in age from 8 months to 80 years, we are married, divorced, widowed and single, we have strong-legs and motorized wheelchairs, all shades of skin tones, diverse backgrounds and experiences, and no doubt varying opinions about the Dallas Cowboys and how the rest of the world should work. Most in our country have forgotten how to get along with people who are different. We have sorted ourselves into homogenous groups politically and sociologically, even moving away from others to live in likeminded communities. Bill Bishop wrote about this phenomenon in his 2008 book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-minded America is Tearing Us Apart. It is indisputable that we are living in one of the most polarized times in our history. There is little or no reaching across the political aisle to problem-solve. We can hardly speak of the “other side” without vilifying its members. We only watch our side’s cable channel, read our side’s columns or blogs, and then unfriend anyone who disagrees with us, so we don’t have to consider their posts and associated comments. Something about sitting around a table and sharing a meal with people is almost magical. At the very least, it binds us together. Differences fade away for a time as we all pause for this necessary refueling of our bodies. (As the lone vegan in the group, I am disruptive to this otherwise unifying, lip-smacking appreciation of Texas brisket, but the rest tolerate me all the same.) That is why our group eats together every month. It is a reminder that we at least have this one thing in common, and amidst the smacking we realize we are more alike than we are different, even if we can’t agree about the Cowboys. Perhaps you have seen those real-life games of chess or checkers or even Harry Potter’s Quidditch. I am thinking that next month when we leave the table, we may play a real-life game of Spot It! looking closely at one another to find at least one thing that matches at every turn. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?