Have you heard of Caine’s Arcade? Chances are if you had an internet connection in 2012, you probably have. The story of a 9-year-old boy’s unappreciated entrepreneurial ingenuity went viral thanks to the generosity of a stranger who bought the very first Fun Pass.
If you aren’t familiar with this story, you’re probably wondering what’s a Fun Pass? Well, that little question is the tiny seed that started a social movement, funded a boy’s future college education and founded an imaginative non-profit.
“It’s a sweet story that brings viewers back to a time of potent imagination and creativity.”
Caine would spend his summers with his dad at a used auto parts store — imagine how much fun that would be for a 9-year-old boy. Boredom might be the only thing to bring out our most powerful moments of creativity. He started taking cardboard boxes auto parts were shipped in and built an arcade game. Over time, he had several cardboard games and would offer store customers chances to play for a nickel. Ingenious, right? But up until then, not one customer had taken Caine up on his offer. That all changed the day he finally sold his first Fun Pass to then unbeknownst to him, filmmaker Nirvan Mullick.
Something amazing happens when we say yes to a child who invites us into their imaginative world.
“It’s not a stretch to say that ‘Caine’s Arcade’ makes a convincing case for ‘connected learning,’ a model that embraces social media as a way for kids to link up with peers and mentors—a kind of crowdsourced education.”
Caine’s story touches something deep inside us all. It reminds us what it feels like to recapture the awe and wonder of childhood. It reminds us to start with simplicity. It reminds us how small gestures of kindness can lead to unbelievable changes in other people’s lives. It reminds us we are already significant — not because of what we do — but because of who we are. When we believe this is true, we let go of the insecurity of trying to prove our significance through everything we do. We can start using everything we do as opportunities to build meaningful connections with one another.
“The idea is to not only give kids the tools to build the things they can imagine but also to imagine the world they can build.”
Looking back, I can see how Caine’s Cardboard Arcade was one of the initial catalysts for homeschooling my kids and the development of Reimagine Life. It was a concrete example of something I intuitively believed to true but didn’t have the words or experience to articulate entirely. It was the spark of inspiration for what was to come. It was the foundational template of infinite possibilities to create what we need within the limits of the most simple materials.
Almost seven years later, my son is now turning Caine’s age. It’s exciting to think this is just the beginning for us.
Wherever you are at — right now always has the potential to be the beginning of something new. The unescapable everpresent question is always asking, what will you build with your right now?
Just keep it simple. Maybe start with some cardboard.