The Ice Bucket Cometh

It’s nearly the first day of school, and I, for one, couldn’t be more ready.  Summer has been fun and fabulous, but the tiny portion of my soul that belongs to the struggling-to-survive remnants of my former Type A personality can no longer handle the chaos.  I need routine and structure and consistency…..along with the chaos of all the sports schedules hitting us.  Our family master schedule (which I color code per person for activities) looks like a clown threw up on it (because apparently, I think clown vomit is bright and multi-colored).

Social media is a veritable smorgasbord of back to school pictures, quotes, videos and blogs.  Some are sentimental.  Some are hilarious.  Some are…..let’s say, different.  But all are being trumped by the phenomenon sweeping the virtual nation.  I know you’ve seen it.  You may have participated in it.  It’s the ALS Ice Bucket
Challenge.  And I think it is absolutely beautiful.

People from all walks of life and every age are getting on board and allowing friends or loved ones to dump large containers filled with icy water over their heads.  They then issue the challenge to do the same to their friends and the cycle continues.  The challenged have 24 hours to respond.  Missing the deadline results in an expectation to pony up a $100 donation to the ALS Foundation.  Many people are choosing to do both.  It’s brilliant.  It’s hilarious.  And it’s making a difference.  Since the challenge began, ALS has received over $15 million dollars in donations – way over it’s usual pull.

In spite of this, there are critics out there who are upset with this “trendy” bit of fundraising and are picking it apart to point out why it’s not a good idea, or is too silly, or is just feeding American narcissism even more.  I’ve read several articles where the author has either admonished the public to “quit dumping water on your head and just give the hundred bucks” or has used the defeatist logic that it won’t raise enough money to make a difference anyway.  To any of these thinkers, I’d just like to say, “You’ve missed the point.”

Because as someone who works very closely with families fighting off terminal or permanent or heart-breaking conditions, I can pretty much guarantee to you they don’t see it that way at all.  Here’s why:

1) It’s not just about the money.  It’s also about awareness.  And to create awareness, you have to get people’s attention.  And to get people’s attention, you have to create something fun or shocking, and make it something they can share.  How many of those dumping water over their heads never heard of ALS before this challenge?  How many children are asking questions and learning about this tragic condition?  How many friends are discovering the peers in their midst who have lost a family member to this disease, but just hadn’t shared that information?  How many individuals and families feel a little less alone now that the world is looking at their illness?

2) It’s about purpose.  God bless Pete Frates and his family.  His determination to make a difference and his support network’s participation in putting out this idea are creating a legacy he probably never imagined.  I watched his video and bawled my eyes out as his mother sat looking into the camera with her unwavering stare while she explained their frustrations and the journey they are on.  I have no doubts she has days where she screams at the sky, “Couldn’t you have picked someone else’s son?”  I also have no doubts she couldn’t be prouder of hers.  And she is determined he will leave his mark on this world, that his suffering will serve a higher purpose.

3) It’s about community.  For now, and in this, the shivering masses are united in purpose.  Your neighbor, your brother, David Beckham, the cast of Grey’s Anatomy…..all are joining in and experiencing the same situation.  When’s the last time that happened?  The shrieks and laughter and gasps erupting from our collective selves are echoing across the nation.  The donations are pouring in from all over.  We are a team. We are stepping outside of ourselves, and teaching our kids to do the same.  We are caring for our brother. And it’s all voluntary, and done with joy.

4) It’s also about the money.  I don’t know about you, but I happen to think $15.6 million is a lot of money. I also happen to think that every fund starts with a dollar.  If we all held to the philosophy that a drop in the bucket never matters, no fundraising or savings plan would ever work.  You’ve got to start somewhere.

As much as we may want to, we don’t always get to pick our battles….especially the really hard ones.  We just get to pick how we react to them, and how we allow them to shape us.  I admire individuals who choose to use their stories in ways that will make the world a better place.  I am humbled by the strength of those who are dealt a terrible hand and still use it to trump their circumstances.  They are the true heroes of our age.  Of every age, really.

When Gregg and I participated in the challenge, Luke got to dump the ice on our heads.  In the video, he is literally dancing around in gleeful anticipation of “icing” his parents.  It’s hilarious, and I’ve had many people comment on it.  The part no one saw, however, was his interest in discovering what the challenge meant and his complete focus on the video explaining it.  Every time he sees our video or tells the story, he’ll remember its significance.  As Drew dances around, begging to be challenged, he clarifies that it’s not just to get cold – he wants to help get rid of bad diseases. Emry, ever watchful, asks if it helps “kids like the ones Mommy helps”.

Yeah.  They got the point.  And they’ll remember it.

Hopefully, we all will.

Solidarity, sisters.  A tidal wave can start from a bucket.

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