The Game of Hearts

The Game of Hearts

How about playing a game where you compete only with yourself and get to do some good in the process? How about the “Game of Hearts”?

Last year, my daughter discovered her breast cancer had returned, and I found my mind becoming mired in depressive and hopeless thoughts night after night.

It was a long, cold winter. I no longer found joy or comfort in the things I had loved, like winter’s blanket of white snow. I started hating that snow and the freezing air. How I yearned for some warm rays of sunshine to break through that gloom!

And some sunshine came, in an unexpected way.

I was chatting with a friend and casually mentioned that while on a train I got into talking to somebody, and “how good it felt to focus on someone else.” “That sounds great!” he said. “Let’s make it a game.” So we began writing each other stories of people we’d met and connected with or somehow helped. Besides doing some good, it helped me keep my sanity during a very difficult time in my life, forcing me to look for opportunities and stories I could share with my friend. Since then, we’ve expanded to playing this game with a group of volunteers on the streets of downtown Rijeka and using it as part of our youth summer camp.1

Here’s a summary of how to play:

  • Do small acts of love to anyone, but preferably strangers—people you happen to meet on your way to school, or work, or on a walk somewhere.
  • These acts of kindness may or may not involve speaking.
  • It can be played anywhere, at any time of day, alone or with another player.
  • There aren’t any secret tactics. In fact, it’s best to share your secrets and experiences, even though the idea isn’t to brag about your good deeds. The goal of this game is to increase awareness of the universal need for love, and to realize that it never runs out; we can give and pass it on to others, and often it gets returned right on the spot. It also demonstrates the importance of little things, what an influence we can have on others without necessarily having to do anything unusual or great.

1. Learn more about the Game of Hearts and watch it in action here.

Anna Perlini

Anna Perlini is a co-founder of Per un Mondo Migliore, a humanitarian organization active in the former Yugoslavia since 1995.

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