By now we’re all familiar with the #icebucketchallenge. The social media phenomenon has raised over $22 million for the ALS Association and millions more for other ALS nonprofits.
A disease has gone viral — and it’s a good thing.
But, in the past few days there have been numerous posts on my social media feeds discouraging others from dumping buckets of icewater on their heads — alongside a wide range of accusations: it’s not altruistic; everyone’s just jumping on a bandwagon; it wastes water; it’s pointless; Americans are so ignorant about the rest of world; people obviously don’t care about what’s happening in Ferguson; the videos don’t educate people about what ALS actually is; and so on.
It all makes my heart hurt. Why shame people for paying attention to this cause?
Yes there are other tragedies in the world, but this is important. Promote something else if you’d rather – but don’t doubt that the relief and research this campaign will support is valuable and much needed.
And if someone tags you in a video today and you’re not sure if it’s worthwhile, please think again.
You really are doing something good.
When my Dad was diagnosed in 2004, the ALS Association provided our shell-shocked family with immediate support: compassionate advice, knowledge of what was ahead of us, expensive equipment and clever ways to manage his progressive disabilities, social calls just to check-in, and when he passed away not even two years later, at the young age of 54, they provided grief counseling and a support group. Then later, when we were ready, ways to contribute to a cure.
The research the ALS Association funds gives people hope. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can be genetic. A decade ago the doctors said my Dad’s case wasn’t the genetic variety, but we’ve lost my aunt as well. It’s terrifying to think that someone else I love may be next. Or maybe it will be me. In 15 years I’ll be 54 and my daughter Elliott, just 17. It could even come for her someday. Knowing that more money is gushing in to fund research for a cure helps me breathe.
The challenge itself was important to me for an even more personal reason. Elliott is missing out on her Papa. She’s the only grandchild in our family to not know him. He would have been a doting grandpa, a role model with high expectations. He would have insisted on teaching her to play gin (the right way) and protecting her from “dirtbags.”
Standing next to me in our backyard, with her own little bucket of cold water, was a small way to share a piece of what happened long before she could ever understand.
Thousands of people doing this silly thing for a serious cause, whatever their motivation, cuts into the fear and loneliness.
Hold your buckets high, my friends.
PS — Here’s the video of me & Elliott icebucketing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUm0DXibEGg&sns=em