I had no idea what the ice bucket Facebook posts were all about (just hadn’t taken the time to pay much attention to them or watch any.) Until my kiddos were tagged in one as nominees.
The kids, Phil, and I watched three little kids standing in a tub, ages 9, 8, and 5, talking about ALS. Then the count down by the parents, the icy water (the littlest guy was wearing a bicycle helmet~ which made this video like 10x cooler), and finally the screams and laughing.
But it wasn’t just a random act of crazy.
Or an altruistic video of another family succumbing to social media peer pressure.
The parents took the time to talk ALS with the kids.
Each of the children donated their own money to ALS.
And the parents matched their donation to another charity (for MS).
In between all that good parenting and using a social media craze to educate themselves and their kids, the video grabbed my attention, too. (Of course, because I was tagged in it.)
Up until that tag, ALS was not on my charity radar as far as giving money.
That is not to say we didn’t know about the disease or have an idea of how it affects others. My kids can tell you more about past Yankee’s players than a sportscaster on ESPN…so, Lou Gehrig’s name is in our normal conversations more times than the word “tastykake.” Which, for two little kids, might be slightly abnormal. But, it is true.
The reality is that I would not have donated to ALS without this (stupid, annoying, Facebook-feed-hungry…call it what you want) ice bucket challenge. But we did donate~ and we soaked the kids. Why the hell not? We’ve never had a great excuse to take them in the backyard and pour ice all over them.
The ice bucket challenge was on my radar at this point, so I started seeing the ALS Ice Bucket Backlash. I read lots of articles from both sides of the argument (even got side-tracked into medical journal reading about embryonic stem cell research*). And if you ever want to get really pissed off at 230am, look up lots of anti-ice-bucket-challenge hashtags on Facebook. (See #2)
From what I can tell, the arguments against the challenge come on two different levels:
1. People who have family ties to this disease (loved ones have died because of it) who are offended at the fundraising’s concept (donate, but if you don’t want to, dump water on yourself and video tape it) and the blind participation by some people who just want to join a social media activism craze (but who really don’t know and don’t care about ALS).
These concerns are real and absolutely warranted~ and yes, there probably is a (much) better structure for this type of fundraising/raising awareness… but, because we aren’t there yet, intelligent people will recognize that this ice bucket challenge is making a huge-HUGE- difference for ALS research funding this year. We all need to consider the perspective of the people closest to this disease, though. And, at least from the articles I read, they are leary of the means, but thankful for the end result.
2. Then there are the people who backlash every social media craze. These are the hastaggers that had my blood boiling last night. Because they can’t see the forest for the trees. And the worst part about it? Many of them are my brothers/sisters in Christ.
They site things like~
No one knows why they are pouring water on themselves; it is a peer pressure/popularity thing (which makes this morally wrong).
Wet T-shirts never looked so holy.
What about the kids in Africa who don’t have clean water while you waste yours.
What about other causes and issues right now that you are NOT so aggressively raising awareness for? (that one usually has a political slant on it, FYI)
And my favorite and most moronic one of all: Only give to the causes that have the highest rates of diagnosis.
I can’t finish this post up without quickly addressing all of these.
While I agree that if a person’s motivation by participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge (and even donating) is to gain popularity, it is not a “charitable” act by definition. However, if I had ALS or, worse, one of my kids or my husband, I’d be happy to put up with the clueless, peer-pressure failures in order to raise both the money and awareness that has been built up in July and August for ALS. There is never, ever, ever going to be a perfect way for everyone in the world to be charitable without some heart issues being askew in that endeavor. Someone might be donating while shining the spotlight on that contribution. Let’s side with the many who AREN’T and who talk to their kids about ALS and who donate quietly on their laptop at work and who post a video and who care about sick people
because they are doing what Jesus’ whole life was about: Caring for the LEAST of these.
The ice bucket challenge by nature is silly and ridiculous. And sure, it clogs your facebook feed with stupid videos of people in wet clothing. Chances are, you watch none of them (until you are tagged). Here is the thing: page views on the ALS Association’s site were up 8500% during the first 17 days of August. You might only appreciate this stat if you have an online shop or blog—so, let me clue you in. That is INSANE. If some act of abnormal behavior gained an organization a small increase in awareness, most people would say that might just be worth it (i.e., a marathon in high heels, a three day walk, etc.)…but to create a national wave of awareness around a disease that literally affects only two in every 100,000 people by taking 30 seconds to dump water on yourself or your kids? Let’s call a spade a spade: it is easy, and it is working.
The kids who don’t have clean drinking water argument: when you find a way to get the water that would have been in your bucket for the challenge all the way to kids in third world countries, skip the challenge and do that. I agree, that would be a better immediate use of your water (but still donate to ALS). Also, remember to include the water in your third cup of coffee, your dishwasher, the kiddie pool in your backyard, your sprinkler system, and your daily shower.
I can’t even address the “what about other causes…there are lots of other diseases, you know?” or “rates of highest diagnosis” arguments. Mother Theresa put my colorful thoughts into profound prose:
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
Also, read Jesus in Luke 10:25-37.
You don’t need to choose ALL the charities at once… and you really don’t need to cleverly pull hairs and preach from your legalistic soapbox about who is deserving of your attention. Starting small and close works best. If your tagged in the ALS challenge, I can’t imagine a more in-your-face opportunity to do something worth while today.
If this was all the rage in the first century, and John the Baptist did the ice bucket challenge (because you know he would) and nominated Jesus, would He participate?
I think so.
Jesus' death and resurrection are crucial and at the forefront of his work~ but He lived and ministered on earth, too. He did not come to just die for my sins. He lived. He laughed. He taught. He served. He is subversive and revolutionary in His approach to everything religious.
The first time he stated His life mission he said this:
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
And then He spent his whole ministry in the trenches,
alongside people who didn’t have a clue…
His closest friends and followers were often like the people dumping water
On their heads, but who know nothing about the reason why.
Jesus always worked beauty through the broken down places in his relationships, culture, and society.
All the time,
giving us Kingdom glimpses of
what perfect justice and love and wisdom looks like.
We won’t get there~ to the perfection place, I mean.
Not in this lifetime.
But I believe that God works in things that go viral.
He works in the unseen places, too.
Unfortunately, I think church people can at times really muddy-up those places
With intentions that stem from a selective form of following Christ.
If you are going to follow Jesus,
You need to live for all the things He lived for.
I think He would always choose the justice act
Whether that takes the form of dumping water on your head and donating to ALS
Or treating illegal immigrants with grace, love, and understanding
Or working for clean water in places that have none
Or walking three days for breast cancer
Or sending your last $5 to an organization that you love…
Better yet, continuing to sponsor children despite what type of lifestyle its employees choose to live.
Because the Jesus acts of love and awareness and donating and justice don’t need to look shiny, neat, or even unworldly.
Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors for God’s sake.
We are to be in the world~
Immersed in our society and culture…
But living with a Kingdom heart and vision.
That is the piece that will set you apart.
That is the piece that will set you apart.
Until you can accept viral acts of stupidy that result in significant acts of care for the sick and see that with the heart of Christ~then you will continue to sell your Creator way short.
And your heart will be locked in a place that has very little to do with the actual life of Christ.
"The best word for Jesus' dream is that he wanted it to go viral. Jesus launched his kingdom dream at a wedding with friends and family. He didn't march into Jerusalem on a white horse or sail off to Rome to topple the powers that be. Instead, he set up shop at an ordinary house at an ordinary event, and he launched the kingdom dream with ordinary people."
*I have also seen the argument not to donate because the ALS Association funds research with embryonic stem cells. This is a personal decision~ but should not keep anyone from taking the time to find a quality ALS charity that does not fund that type of research and donate there. WE EACH need to take ownership of doing our own research and not defaulting to the lazy, often uneducated, argument that prohibits your donation due to the type of research being done in one avenue of finding treatment for this disease. Many anti-bucket-challenge people posting about stem cell research are google-searching articles that are shallow assessments of the entire ALS research base…and do not have a clue regarding the circumstances surrounding stem cell research in general.
To donate to the ALS Association, click here.