Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I'm Not Taking the Ice Bucket Challenge

I had hoped to get through this fad without being nominated so I wouldn't have to look like a jerk for not doing it. But I did get nominated, so rather than just come off like a loser, I'm writing this post to share why I'm not doing it.

For those of you unaware, the Ice Bucket Challenge works like this: if you're nominated by someone, you have 24 hours to either dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate $100. Why? To battle ALS, of course! What, you didn't automatically connect ice water and ALS?

If you know me, like, at all, you know I'm all for some good awareness campaigns. There are several issues near and dear to me that I will raise awareness for all the time, even with silly campaigns. But I have a problem with this one. It strikes me like that "make your status the color of your bra for breast cancer" thing that appears every few years on Facebook. It's funny, but there's not a whole lot of difference-making that comes from it. Kony 2012, which get's all sorts of flack, had more impact than this one, from my perspective.

The way I see it, the majority of the participants are not actually learning about ALS or helping out in any way. Most of the people being nominated are teens and young people, meaning they don't have the $100 to donate, so of course they're going to dump ice water on themselves. Plus, taking the challenge (and posting in online as the proof) bumps up their social media image and makes them look good (not that I'm anti-social media. Hellooo. Have you met me?)

True awareness is about more than "hey this thing exists". It should be educating people, saying "this exists, this is why it's bad, here's what we can do about it". Have I always done the awareness thing well? No. It's something that I'm still learning and changing my views about. The older I get, the less I want to just take silly challenges or share a link, I want to really make a difference. Those things are good places to start, but let's take it further. Let's make it a lifestyle of caring, not simply a 30 second post. Maybe then we can actually change the bad things in the world.

Also, I don't want to be bullied into financially supporting a cause. It shouldn't be a punishment to support a great organization. People should be donating because they believe in the organization and what they're fighting for. And for me personally, I'm very careful about who I give my money to. I don't just throw money at anyone, no matter how good your story is. I want to know that you are actually going to use my money like you say you are. I'm going to do my homework to make sure you're a trusted organization. You are not getting my money and support until I look into you and approve. I gave up chocolate because I don't approve of the slave labor involved. Chocolate. I've written term papers about how delicious and necessary chocolate is, and I gave it up. So yeah, you have to work a bit to earn my monetary support.

Now, if you've taken the challenge, are going to take it, or think it's a good thing, that's fine. This isn't an attack on you, so please don't take it that way. Many people I love have done it, too. I'm writing this to make you think, and to challenge you to go further. Take the challenge if you want to, but do so in the way it was intended. Take a few minutes to educate yourself and others about the disease. Share a fact or two before you dump the ice, and link the ALS Association or another organization in your post. Make a donation, regardless of the presence of ice. But if that education/donation piece isn't part of your Ice Bucket Challenge, then it's no different from the stupid milk or cinnamon challenges from a few years back.

Whatever the cause, whatever the challenge, take a moment to think before you go after it. Is it something you support? Great! But is that action going to make a difference? Is it paired with tangible change? Go out there and raise awareness and support for the things you are passionate about in a way that will turn the world upside down.

And if you're really concerned about your social media presence, just imagine the things you can post all the time if you're living a life that really makes a difference.

Endnote: I am not against raising awareness or funds for ALS. It's a horrible disease and should go away. But I'm a nurse. I see many ugly diseases and painful deaths daily. I also am more aware than I want to be of child sex trafficking, FGM, forced labor, sweat shops, the LRA, starvation, children being beheaded, and so many other atrocities in the world today. As someone who cares, a lot, I've come to know I cannot save everyone or stop every bad thing. I choose to spend my time, energy, and money supporting a few different causes and organizations doing awesome things in the world. I believe that each person, unless you've got unlimited funds, has to decide which few things our of the thousands to wholeheartedly support. For some, that's ALS. For others, it's Compassion or Invisible Children or the Red Cross. I don't care what you support as long as it's something. Stand for ALS, not the Ice Bucket Challenge. Stand for hope and change, not fads.

What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Have you taken it? Have you had the same thoughts I have? Share with me in the comments!

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