[DISCLAIMER: I'm fully prepared for the onslaught of criticism I will receive for this post. Know ahead of time that I'm cool with that. And I get it.]
I hesitated to write this blog. But the more I hesitated, the more I couldn’t get it off my mind. And, as anyone who is a writer knows, if something is in a writer’s mind that needs to come out, it will not stop until it gets out there. If I was ever going to write anything again (including a project that I have due that I need to be working on), I need to get this out and move on. So, here goes.
So, if you’re reading this blog, I can just about 100% guarantee you that you’ve heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge. Why do I say that? Well, if you’re reading this blog, that means you have a computer with internet access. And that is the only criteria you need to have heard about this viral phenomenon. In fact, even if you weren’t sitting here on your computer or cell phone reading this blog, I’m sure you would have seen it on TV or heard of it by word of mouth. Somehow, some way you have heard of the ice bucket challenge. I guarantee you.
Now, which version of it you’ve actually heard might vary. Which version you participated in probably varied. Or hey, like about 75% of the world (I totally just made up that statistic and it has no factual basis whatsoever other than my cynical brainwaves spitting it out there), you probably just dumped some ice water on your head so you could make a video of it and show your friends. Hey, whatever floats your boat. But here is what it is supposed to be. What started as a challenge geared at donating to a variety of random causes, has now been adopted as the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise money specifically for ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease as some may know it). There are a variety of theories floating around as to how that part of the story happened (here’s one for instance), so I won’t get into that aspect of it. The point is – there is a challenge that is supposed to go like this: You get “challenged” (i.e. tagged on Facebook by one of your friends) to either (a) dump a bucket of ice water on your head, take a video, post it to Facebook, and then donate $10 to the ALS Association; or (b) don’t do the ice bucket thing and donate a full $100 to ALS.
[Before I go any further, let me go ahead and post the link to donate directly to ALS - it's found here. You know, if you actually want to do that instead of pouring ice water on your head. I know clicking a button privately is not as fun as broadcasting your participation for the world to see. But hey - the option is here for you crazy rebels who so choose.]
Now, as you can probably gather from my snippy comment above, I have found a little bit of an issue with this challenge. Am I denying that it was an ingenious concept? Heck no! It’s apparently working…and working quite well. (This article says that $22.9 million has been raised for ALS alone.) And that’s awesome. Anything you can do to bring attention to a cause that needs it and raise money for it is fantastic. I’m glad that worked out (and is still working out). I really am. But the problem I have with it goes a little deeper than that. This is one of those “Do the ends justify the means?” kind of deals.
First of all, I have a serious problem with hypocrisy. I mean, a serious problem with it. I am a pretty honest, straight-forward person (too much so at times, I know), and the thing about we straight-forward people is that we kind of expect the same in return. And are most often disappointed with that expectation. This challenge? This challenge goes against everything about that aspect of my personality. No, let me rephrase that. Not the challenge itself, but the way people have taken it and run with it. Now, I know that every social phenomena can be taken advantage of. Every good deed, every good cause, every everything has someone somewhere that can be using it for personal gain. But I feel like this particular cause is actually set up to allow people to do that. I mean, check it out. You get to post a ridiculous video of yourself dumping water on your head. Look at all the attention you’re getting! And depending upon which version of this challenge people have heard about, posting this video means that you did what? You donated!
Now, I’m not the most religious person in the world (at least not in the way most people define it). But there’s a Bible verse that just keeps popping into my head lately.
“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 6:4 KJV
(Or, if you’re not of the mindset that the King James Version is the one that descended from the heavens, then maybe this version will make it a little more clear: “Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:4 NLT)
The problem I have with this aspect of the challenge is two-fold. 1) I think (no, know) that many of the people posting these videos did not donate. In fact, they probably didn’t even receive any instructions as to how to donate even if they had wanted to. But did that stop them from doing it? No way. They were challenged. They had to. (This is where the hypocrisy comes in.) The other thing that bothers me? The verse I posted above. Even if the people posting the videos did donate, aren’t they broadcasting to the world that they did so? Isn’t that…I don’t know…wrong somehow? And while I’m on this train of thought, let’s look at another Bible verse:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 KJV
(Again, for you heathen alternate-version users: “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT)
I’m thinking that’s pretty self-explanatory isn’t it? Should you be giving because you were told to? Because you were challenged to? I just don’t know, man. I just don’t know.
Now, aside from all of that, let me get back down to the other problem I have with this. This is back to that “Does the ends justify the means?” conundrum. Did this challenge raise tons of money for charity? Yep, it sure did. The “end” was a total success. But were the “means” the right way to go about it? Was telling someone to give or face public humiliation for not doing so the right thing to do? Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh. Maybe you’re not exactly “publicly humiliated” if you don’t give. But everyone sees those posts you’re tagged in. And everyone sees that you didn’t post a video. Is the assumption they gather from that that you gave $100 instead of posting a video? I think not. Their assumption is that you didn’t participate at all. And how does that make you look?
The same way writing this blog makes me look. Like a big fat selfish fuddy dud who doesn’t know how to have to fun or give to charity.
Don’t lie. You know darn good and well that’s how it looks. But here’s what you’re probably not thinking about when you’re tagging all these people in these posts. These are some very, very hard times for a lot of people. In case you haven’t noticed, our economy sucks. The area I live in has an unemployment rate that would blow your mind. People are treading water just to get by, and now you want to add insult to injury by making them feel like a jerk if they don’t donate to charity? And aside from that, just because they don’t dump buckets on their head or donate to ALS specifically, how do you know that they aren’t privately donating (as it should be done, in my humble, big-mouthed opinion) to causes that hold their heart? I have a child who, because of a genetic disease, is going to have children that are sick. Unlike a lot of you who are looking forward to grandchildren one day, I am dreading it. I am dreading the doctor’s visits, the genetic counseling, the horrendous choices my little girl is going to have to make. When/if I can afford to donate to a charity – I’m sorry, but that‘s the one I’m donating to. And I’m not going to post a video about it, or broadcast it, or “challenge” you to do the same. I’m just not made that way. And frankly, I just don’t think other people should be either.
I understand that your charity is important. And I wish you the best, I truly do. But my charity is just a tad bit more important to me. It hits closer to home and when my heart leads me and my bank account allows me, I will donate to it. Not because someone told me to, but because I feel like it’s what I need to do.
So, am I a bad sport for not participating in this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? I guess so. Sorry about that. But now you know why.
And I can guarantee you I’m not the only one who feels this way.