Over the past five and a half decades, Gary Duschl has sat down for two hours every day to fold and add gum wrappers to a chain so long it would take the average person seven hours and thirty minutes to walk its length! But why on earth would he do this? And how on earth did he do this? The answer will remind you how, bit by bit, our work adds up to something that may become much bigger than ourselves.

Sometimes, our seemingly random ideas, goals, and activities that we enjoy are exactly what people are most drawn to. Whether you love doing puzzles, rolling tape between your fingers, or linking gum wrappers together like Gary, here’s proof you should embrace it!

You may have a whole community of surprise helpers just waiting for your special bit of magic—just like Gary did. Just wait until you hear his story!

Image: Gary Duschl with his Guinness World Record award and his winning gum wrapper chain!

Courtesy of Gary Duschl

The Chain of Goodness!

What started as a childhood determination to have the longest gum-wrapper chain in school has turned into the longest one in the world. Gary has been a Guinness World Record holder for the past 25 years and is heading into the 2021 edition with over 106,810 feet of chain to his name. (That’s 73 Empire State Buildings or 40 Burj Khalifas, which is the tallest building in the world.) He even has special boxes to store the monstrosity!

It’s a bit hard to wrap your brain around how big of an undertaking this is. And maybe even harder to understand the enjoyment of keeping up with the same hobby for decades. But Gary has compared it to the repetitive, relaxing feeling a lot of people get from knitting or however you like to keep your hands busy while watching TV and winding down at the end of the day.

So, let’s meet this wonderful record holder, shall we? Here are Gary and his wife, Debra,  in a video brought to us by Guinness World Records!

Want to learn how to make one of these wrapper chains for yourself? Head over to Gary’s website for a tutorial!

And if you’d like to meet some of the other amazing people with Guinness World Records, head over to their channel!

Going big with help from others!

The first question I know you’re wondering is: did Gary chew all of that gum himself? Thankfully for his jaw’s health, the answer is much more heartwarming.

When word got out that Gary had the goal to create a giant gum-wrapper chain, people started to help out. His classmates, and then eventually, his own students, would save their gum wrappers for him—even strangers would come up to him and give what they’d collected! 2

Gary’s gum-wrapper chain is a literal record of his life. But more than this, one of the people who have helped him along the way. Without them, Gary says that he’d “have had to chew a stick of gum about every ten minutes, day and night, for the last 55 years.” So instead, he invited others on the journey along with him! (Although he doesn’t ever add other people’s premade chains to his own.)

Something that I think a lot of us miss when we’re at home, quietly working away on something to unwind, is that this is another opportunity to connect. We don’t need to change what we’re doing at all—we can still watch TV and do something mindless—but if we tell others what we’re up to, they may make it easier for us. Whether they have a random box of fabric that was passed down to them that would be perfect for your quilting projects, or like my friends who—ever since I told them I love block printing on fabric—have been gifting me random pieces of clothing to make art on.

I suppose the moral of the story is that people want to help you do whatever makes your heart sing, no matter how wacky or “useless” it may seem. We just have to let them know we’re doing it.

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As always, stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

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Notes:

  1. Guinness World Records. “Longest Gum Wrapper Chain – Guinness World Records.” YouTube, 28 Dec. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=M08hWR3flXo. Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.
  2. Frishberg, Hannah. “This Man Started a 20-Mile-Long Gum-Wrapper Chain in 1965.” New York Post, New York Post, 18 Sept. 2020, nypost.com/2020/09/18/this-man-started-a-20-mile-gum-wrapper-chain-in-1965/. Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.