Archives by: Duncan Hecht

Bean Activity

This is a pretty serious game that only work with large numbers of people (read: 50+). Everyone takes seven beans from a bucket of beans. Form a circle with all the people. Explain that the game is serious. Pick one person in the circle to start the game. That person (person A) puts their beans in their pocket, and then moves to the inside of the circle. They then face the person next to them (person B), and ask if the person has any medicine for them. If person B says, “Yes,” then they give them one of their beans. Otherwise, person B tells person A, “I have no medicine for you.” Person A then moves on to the next person in the circle (person C).
Once person A moves on to person D, person B follows them, asking person C if they have any medicine. As person A moves on, person B follows, then person C follows. The circle will double back on itself. Once person A reaches the end of the circle (the gap they left when they started) they put all the beans they collected aside, and pull out their seven beans. Those are the only seven that they may give away.
At the beginning of the game, people are more likely to give away beans, so the first people to go around the circle wind up with many beans. But by the end, some people will end up with no beans, because other gave them all away and had none to give them. The game should be quiet except for people asking, “Do you have any medicine for me?” so it may be helpful to have meditative music in the background. I will repeat that this is a serious game, and I have seen grown men crying at the end because they had no beans to give away to people who had none.
Once the game is over and everyone has had a chance to go around the circle, it may be helpful to debrief and talk about why people gave beans, or how it felt to tell someone they had nothing to give. It is even more poignant when the supply of beans is clearly visible, and even overflowing in the middle of the circle. This game asks more questions than it answers, about our generosity, about our arrogance (it’s not our job to save everyone; that’s God’s), about our foolish attempts at wisdom in deciding how to give our beans away. It may be helpful to split into small groups to discuss, or give time for people to deal with what the game meant to them.

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