Thursday, August 28, 2014

Challenge yourself

With or without ice

I have to admit, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has got me on the fence. When the philanthropic social media explosion rolled to the forefront of my newsfeed, all I thought was ‘Hey, this is annoying and it seems silly and pointless.’ I did not understand how dumping ice water over your head was going to help anyone. I mean, yeah, it’s sort of funny to see your friends get hosed with a blast of cold water, but outside pranks between pals, how did this become such a huge thing?

If you’re unfamiliar with it, let me fill you in. The basic concept is you take a video or photo of yourself dumping ice water on your head and post to social media. When you post, you’re supposed to challenge up to two friends to do the same. If they do not comply within 24 hours they’re asked to donate money to The ALS Association, which raises funds to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Pretty simple right? Well, why not just donate money to the organization and skip the silly sideshow? I mean, the association accepts donations as little as $5, who could say no to that? In fact, some employers will even match a donation made by their employees…now that’s pretty cool...

In fact the Associated Press has reported more than 1.1 million new donors have since raised $53.3 million since the association began tracking the campaign in late July. The fundraising phenomenon now has other nonprofit groups looking for a way to tap into the younger generation of donors, and they might as well, it’s working.

What’s interesting to me is the opportunity the Ice Bucket Challenge has given people to talk. Think of it this way - how much did you know about this progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord before the trend hit social media? I’ll be the first to admit, I did not know very much about it at all.

Still though, there is something amiss with all this.

California is going through a drought the likes of which is unprecedented in America, and that’s not to mention worldwide shortages of clean drinking water. Yet here we are delighted to watch celebrities and our friends alike toss tap water on each other, which leads me to the next problem - when did peer pressure become the means by which we decide to be charitable?

Shouldn’t a charitable act come from a deep, compassionate, and heartfelt place? Shouldn’t a charitable act not only help change the course of someone else’s life but your own life as well, so that the two become linked? Isn’t that at the heart of understanding and committing to a cause?

I was always told to give quietly; that giving is not a showman’s sport. It is not meant to be loud, boisterous, or flashy. You don’t do it to gain attention or accolades, but to reach out and do exactly what I described above - be part of something much larger than yourself.

Perhaps at least this has given us all a chance to consider thinking deeper on the subject before taking the plunge. I can’t say I’m on board with the entire ice challenge, but doesn’t the discussion at least have some value? Challenge yourself.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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