My facebook feed is filled up with a deluge of celebrities and friends taking the challenge to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge other friends to also participate. It’s all an attempt to raise awareness and funds for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gerhig’s disease). Unlike previous ice bucket challenges that have gone around the web, this one seems to be doing some good. While the challenge is to dump the ice or write a check– well, people are doing both. Happily writing the check after enduring a few seconds of bone chilling cold.
It’s hard to be a cynic when you read articles like the one recently published on Forbes or from an ALS family. Or the cold hard numbers of dollars being raised. (And this is assuming that we are only counting the money going to ALS associations and not individuals, families, charity walks, etc.)
In our house we three were “challenged” to the ice bucket challenge by some of our church/family camp friends. There are two families near and dear to us dealing with ALS on a daily basis. One is a 33 year old man who is now in a wheelchair on a vent. Five years ago he was an athlete. Tan, tall, handsome with his beautiful blond wife and a new baby. His wife is amazing– taking care of their daughter and her husband and fighting for the best care/treatment/hope for him. He is amazing– fighting for every scrap of his life while still working and taking care (albeit in a new way) of his family. The other is a woman who is a half generation older than us– she and her husband were the “cool adults” (is there such a thing?) when I was a teenager visiting their church youth group. She is generous and kind and prone to laughing in the way that makes everyone else want to be laughing, too. She, too, is in a wheelchair where only her eyes are still alert and responsive– her beautiful voice and smile are gone. Her large family has closed ranks around her with three generations taking care of the woman that took care of them.
We cheerfully evoked their names before we took the plunge. And, honestly, at the time I hoped that it was appropriate. Somewhere I worried, “Is this helpful? Hurtful? Pissing them off?”
Our friend Lindsay, the amazing wife, put my fears to rest with her latest fb update on their family and her husband. “And another word about the ice bucket challenge…the funds raised is astounding, but the awareness it is bringing is on a whole new level. This might be my lack of sleep talking, but get ready for the wrath of Lindsay if I see any negative comments about it. I hope it never ends and all of your news feeds are completely filled with ice buckets and and the letters A-L-S!”
So I’m irritated (with permission!) with the backlash against the #alsicebucketchallenge. It’s come from dear friends, cynical college students I know, and acquaintances. Some take the superior sounding stance of “All that waste of good, clean water!” (An argument that falls apart as long as they are using said water for bathing, car washing, lawn care, etc.) Others have taken the “I don’t get how this helps” whining stance. (The ice water doesn’t help cure ALS. But people talking about ALS and moving it to the front of peoples’ awareness of it might lead to more research funding. More compassion for the people with ALS and their families.) And then there are those who take the stance that is probably the most truthful, “I’m sick of all these ice bucket videos filling up my feed!” (I’m sorry, too. Gosh. It must be terrible to have your Candy Crush invitations cluttered with a devastating condition that has no cure.)
Internet comments drive me crazy. I know better than to read the comments connected to our local newspaper, for example– because it’s like opening a closetful of rats into a room where the floor is strewn with birthday cake. Sometimes I can’t stop myself though. When a friend is involved in an election or a big decision has been made by the school board. Still. I should know better.
I don’t know how to make the naysayers less full of naysay. I wish there was an app that promised them “No ALSicebuckets on your newsfeed!” for a lovely sized donation. Or maybe a compassion stick to smite them upside the head.
Meanwhile– in our house– I’m grateful for the kick in the pants to give a little. And to have a way to spur other people to give a little, too. Do I think a hundred dollars makes a difference? Probably not last week.
But this week– when our money is added to those that challenged us and those that we challenged and so on and so on– yes. I do. And if it fills up Lindsay’s feed with a bunch of us doing something that makes them laugh for a minute and feel some modicum of us thinking about them– not in hushed, pitying ways– but with love and hope and “Suck it, ALS!” attitudes– well. That’s something.
Don’t put this trend on ice yet. There’s more money out there. Maybe when the ice melts so will some of the cynics?