Ruminations: Ravine

We recently played a game called Ravine at our Wednesday evening Meaningful Play group. The premise is that the players have been marooned on an island and need to work together to survive until they are rescued.

Ravine is a fairly quick card game, but it involves a curious gamble. Players have to spend their own health points to scavenge for food and useful supplies. The more useful things they bring back to the camp, the greater the chances of everyone surviving another night. 

On each of my turns, I risked as much health as I could to scavenge as much as possible for the group. In the game, this turned out to be a fine strategy. When I reflect on this impulse, though, I wonder how much it reflects my approach to real-life situations. 

Do I risk my own well-being on the gamble that I’ll get replenished by the group? And how well has that played out in practical reality?

I suspect many of us learn at an early age that our value comes from caring for others. The more useful we are to other people, the more value we think we have. Some of us might even make some steep personal sacrifices because we think it will make a meaningful difference to a larger community.

As leaders or volunteers, it can sometimes feel like we’re being selfish to hold back a little bit of what we have to offer, and then we wonder why we feel burned out or unappreciated. Maybe it even feels like we’re the only ones doing anything. And maybe everyone around us is so committed to giving 110% that they don’t have time to notice and appreciate what we’re doing.

The reality is that we’re already worthy, and our contributions or usefulness aren’t a factor in our worthiness. Not even a little. Plus, we can’t realistically offer 110% of what we have to offer. We don’t even have to entertain offering all of what we have to offer. It might be more sustainable for us to reserve some of ourselves to make sure we’ll be able to contribute something tomorrow. And the day after that. 

We aren’t going to be able to do all that needs to be done by exhausting ourselves. And we certainly aren’t going to do it all today. That kind of thinking might even prevent us from dreaming big—casting a vision that requires our sustained effort over the long term, alongside other people committed to a long-term effort. 

What’s your habitual strategy? Do you give everything you’ve got all the time and wonder why you’re running on fumes most of the time? Are you resting at camp because everyone around you is operating on hyperdrive? Or do you ask for what you need so that you can keep contributing sustainably to the things you care about? 

I don’t honestly know which strategy is best in game of Ravine. But I can guess which one is ideal for building authentic community.