Aug 23, 2014

The Challenge

So today I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in response to a challenge my good friend J Carlos who did it with his class of seventh graders after being challenged by a former student who in turn had been challenged by someone else.

The ice bucket challenge is a fad that is currently sweeping the nation.  It's a piece of genius awareness-building, fundraising tactic if you think about it.  It's cheap and easy to do, takes little time so anyone from the high and mighty to the low and unknown can participate.  It is visually entertaining to watch so it draws attention (half the fun is watching to see how various people respond to the shock of a bucket of icy water).  The challenge aspect multiplies it's spread through the various forms of social media.  All of this has come together in a viral movement that has done a phenomenal job raising awareness and money.  J informs me that 42 million dollars has been raised for ALS research this year in comparison to 1.8 million last year.  Those incredible results must have the boosters for various other charities wishing they'd thought of it first!

Which brings us to the inevitable backlash that comes with any successful undertaking today.  I remember seeing a video posted by a guy with ALS to all the ice bucket challenge haters and wondering how could anyone have an issue with something as innocent and helpful as this.  What would be the argument?  Well, it didn't take long for me to find out.  And as this fad reaches it's peak and then begins to fade I imagine the chorus of critics will only grow.

But, at least so far, I've not seen any criticism of this fad that holds water (pun intended).   I've seen one post that compares fat and happy Americans dousing themselves in ice water while a poor African child sips from a cup--the suggestion being that while Americans are wasting gallons of water on a silly ice bucket challenge millions go without clean water.  But the fact is you can do a lot more to conserve water by forgoing those long hot showers than you would by sanctimoniously declining the ice bucket challenge "on principle."  Save your dirty dish water to answer your bucket challenge if bothers you that much.  I heard about another critic, some celebrity I guess, making a video that suggested that our thoughts would be better directed towards the tragic events that have unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown than on the ice bucket challenge.  Another video features an Australian newscaster highlighting the multiple needs and charities that need our support, and seems to suggest that it would be better to support those causes than to do the ice bucket challenge.  That makes no sense to me.  I would counter that most of us are able to hold more than one thought in our head at a time, and we can be concerned about racial injustice in this country, the situation with ISIS, the tragedy of human trafficking, the Ebola virus, spreading the Gospel, our own personal challenges and the challenges of those we love, and still have some concern and a few dollars to contribute towards a cause like ALS.

In the end, I don't think the haters really intend to say that the very real struggles sufferers of ALS have to face are unimportant, or are less important than the suffering of others, all though that is essentially what they are communicating.  I think, if they're being honest, most criticism comes from a place of smug annoyance at a trend that happens to be sweeping the nation.  It is not the cause, or the activity itself  but the fact that "everybody's doing it" that sticks in their craw and raises their ire.  And I get that.  But this isn't the Macarena or planking.  It's a fad that is actually helping people who need help.  And it is a fad.  In a month it'll be gone.  But the awareness it's created and the funds that it has raised will remain long after the ice has melted and we've all moved on the the next thing.