“Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” Those were the magic words I was waiting to hear. It was the all clear that signaled the seekers defeat and the hider’s victory.
As a family we played a version of hide and seek in the dark called “spotlight” where the person who was it yielded a flashlight. The seeker would have to shine their flashlight on you and call your name in order to tag you.
I was the youngest of 5 children (including mom and dad who were just bigger kids) and it was very rare that I actually stumped the seeker. I would typically hide in the same place every time, which didn’t help my odds. When I did venture out I would be so indecisive about what new place I wanted to hide that when the seeker opened their eyes I would be stuck in the middle of the living room like a figure from a wax museum and instantly tagged.
I hated getting tagged. I hated when the light shined on my face. I hated the way the seeker would shout “AHA” and call out my name. I hated the smile on their stupid faces. I hated being so bad at this game and always feeling like a loser compared to my brother and sister. I longed so desperately hear that bellow of freedom, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!”
I didn’t really like hiding either. My spot was under the kitchen sink and honestly it was gross. It had a leak in it that Dad had fixed with some strange putty and some tape. It was musty and smelled of mold and cleaning supplies. I was cramped and uncomfortable. And the silence was agonizing. Just sitting there, staying as quiet as you can, with no idea when the door would fly open and you would be exposed.
Life is a lot like spotlight. Many of us are hiding in places that we don’t really like. They are uncomfortable and maybe even dangerous but the fear of being tagged keeps us crumpled up underneath the kitchen sink covered in mold and disgust. We believe that others are out to shine the light on us and laugh in our faces at our failures and so we remain hidden in our own filth and hating every second of it.
We long for someone to call out “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” so that we know it is safe to come out. We know hiding is killing us but we won’t expose ourselves unless we know it to be safe. No lights in our eyes, no laughing, no AHAs, just the calling of safety.
In my experience though there is an interesting reality at play in this scenario. When you break it down you begin to realize that whether we are found out or we come out both lead to the same freedom. The difference is that being found out tends to lead to greater consequences. In the game you become the new seeker which isn’t that big of a deal but in life, the consequences are far greater.
I want to be a voice in the world calling out “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” I am hoping that people will come out of hiding on their own before they get found out. I am hoping to help people realize that the consequences of being found out are far greater than those of being honest. I want to help the poor kid under the sink know that he is loved despite his mistakes.
Ollie Ollie Oxen Free! Come out come out wherever you are! I hope you find the courage.