Saturday, April 24, 2010

Playing Family Feud in Real-Time

There are times, when handling the ups and downs of an extended family, that life mimics a real-time version of a game-show gone terribly wrong.  The contestants range in age across multiple generations; pressing their buzzers and shouting to be heard above everyone else on the panel with no regard to the rules or game format.

The biggest problem with this game of Family Feud, is that everyone is hoping for a drastically different outcome.  Mom is hoping that behind door number one the entire family (children, second cousins, great-aunts twice removed included) will get along; sharing and caring together while putting aside clashes in opinion and personality.  Dad is sure that behind door number two is the key to getting everyone to see things from his point of view and agreeing that he is utterly right in his stance on all things big and small.  Cousin Sally has her fingers crossed that door number three will give her the house, platinum serving set, husband, dog and 2.4 children she is sure she needs to have the perfect Christmas gathering next year.  And dear old Aunt Mildred just wants everyone to leave her the $&%* alone.

Left to decode the shouts, screeches and incessant ringing of the buzzer is the poor game-show host; a man (or woman) who had once dreamed of being a famous actor but in a twist of fate became ringleader of this prime-time circus.  He does his best to keep his smile wide and bright, even when it's obvious that none of the contestants are going to follow the rules or have something intelligent to say in response to the questions peppered on the cue cards in front of him.  He nods emphatically and puts on his best "happy face" as he wrangles the onslaught of ribs and jabs that the contestants pass back and forth, and no one gives any regard to the fact that truthfully he detests both game and contestant equally.

Unfortunately in the end no one gets anywhere near the prize doors and the game drags on forever because no one is willing to stop pointing fingers and distributing blame long enough to hear what anyone else has to say.  It can (and does) drag on for decades; splitting the family apart with rifts that are not easily breached.  It is as painful to watch as it is to participate in, and yet every family still signs up to play with unbridled enthusiasm.

Perhaps when we find ourselves banging our own buzzer against the table, we should take a moment to step back and evaluate how we are playing the game.  If we took the time to define who we are and what we are hoping to accomplish, and tried to understand the same for the family standing around us then perhaps we could all set down our buzzers and have a more relaxing evening playing Connect Four.

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