A few nights ago, the fifth episode of the seventh season of The Amazing Race Canada aired. If you’re not familiar with “The Amazing Race,” the idea is that teams (usually pairs) ‘race’ around cities and/or countries, while undertaking a series of tasks/activities. Every so often, some teams will be eliminated for being the last team to complete an activity (technically, arrive to a particular destination).
On the episode in question, oh wait, **SPOILERS AHEAD**
OK. On the episode in question, there were seven teams remaining. One of the tasks required the teams to dig on a beach for clams (Deep Bay, BC, for those keeping track). Each team had to find close to 100 clams in total (some of specific species). Teams’ clams were checked by a marine biologist. The task looked super-arduous, as the clams were simply sitting on top of the wet beach. No, instead, teams had to use their hands (or shovels) to dig into the sand.
Sometimes, the tasks assigned by the show can be quick (teams can be in and out in under 30 minutes). This task, however, seemed to take a long time, especially for those teams that elected to complete the tasks. Oh yeah — one more important process point. If a team decides they don’t want to “do” a task, they can take a 2-hour time penalty and skip the task. There’s certainly a risk/reward because if it takes the teams who complete the task less than 2 hours, then, effectively, having taken the penalty will significantly increase the penalized team’s chances of finishing last (and possibly being eliminated). Conversely, if even one team takes longer than 2 hours to complete the task, then the penalized team will have been ‘rewarded’ (in a sense) for electing the penalty.
Back to the beach.
So, some teams have arrived and are digging the beach. When one team, in particular arrives, they spend a nominal amount of time and then elect to take the penalty. This is a team that has already done this in other parts of the race. As soon as they make this choice, it’s clear that some of the other teams aren’t pleased. There appear to be some group norms around the Race and how a team should behave (i.e. completing tasks, not skipping through with 2-hour penalties in tow).
Fast-forward a little bit and there are two teams remaining at the beach who are left looking for a particular kind of clam that has proved elusive. All the teams that have left have either completed the task (I believe just one) or taken a penalty (the other four). The two teams still there are physically and emotionally spent. They’ve been there for over four hours completing a task where they’ve watched compatriots (mostly) elect to skip. They’ve only seen one team complete the task and both are pretty sure that there’s a good chance that one of them will be eliminated (for coming last).
Instead of what you might expect — walling off from your opponent and trying to beat them — these two teams decide to work together! They begin to look for the missing clams — together! Eventually, one of the teams strikes proverbial gold — the missing clam. They get it checked and are free to move onto the next task. Except…
They don’t. They stay. The team declares that they want to stay and help the other team finish the task. That it’s the right thing to do.
The stakes here aren’t low, either. The winners of the Race collect a hefty sum ($500k combined), an around-the-world-trip, and a new SUV. Can you imagine imagine making the “kind” choice, under the circumstances of emotional and physical exhaustion, and a substantial reward? I think many of us hope we would.
The second team eventually presents a clam that’s cleared and then both teams head off to the next task together. On the way, one of the teams — the team that was ‘helped’ — figures out the solution to the next challenge. Upon arriving, the ‘helped’ team aids the ‘helping’ team (from the previous task) and then both teams are able to move onto the last step of this part of the Race. How wonderful that the kindness from only moments ago was immediately rewarded.
The two teams arrive at the last step and finish “tied” for second place. Remarkable.
Can you imagine working in an environment where your colleagues, instead of working their tail-feathers off to finish their work and get the heck out of the door, checked in on how you were doing to see if you might need some help to finish your work and then you both could leave an hour early (rather than s/he getting to leave an hour and forty-five minutes early?
Can you imagine living in a world where kindness was the norm? Nay, the expectation? A world where everyone held doors for each other. A world where everyone was willing to give up their seat on the bus. A world where everyone smiled at each other, no matter the colour on the skin of the person looking back at them. A world where the expectation was that people were always looking for ways to help you. A world where kindness reigns.