Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge? No, thank you.

[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.

icebucketSo, 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.

group bucket challengeFirst 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.

***

Robin Williams

“This news hit me as if I actually knew him.” – random Facebook poster

Robin%20Williams-7I want to talk about Robin Williams.

But I don’t just want to talk about him per se. I want to talk about why the news of his death yesterday hit so many people in such profound ways.

Now, first of all, I’m no psychologist. I have no degrees in psychology or sociology or psychiatry or anything else that ends in a “y.” I’m no expert. But now that those disclaimers are out of the way, let me tell what I am.

Human.

And being human [See what I did there?], that makes me somewhat adept at understanding my fellow humans. (Well, sometimes….) In fact, I’m pretty fascinated with other humans. Why they do what they do, what motivates them, what makes them so different, so alike, etc. And a few of my fellow humans have had a response to Robin Williams’s death that is reminiscent of the responses to many other previous celebrity deaths. What response is that, you ask?  Let me summarize:

Why do people care so much about a celebrity death? Stop posting all of these “RIP” messages on Facebook for someone you don’t even know. What about all the senseless deaths in Gaza, Iraq, etc. etc. Get your priorities straight, people! Being famous doesn’t make his life any more meaningful than anyone else’s. What about the soldiers that die every day? What about this, what about that…why is he getting so much attention? It’s a shame you people don’t put as much thought into the real problems of the world as you do into some celebrity’s death…

And so on and so forth.

You’ve seen them, right?  Maybe you’ve even posted them? Or at least thought them.  And hey, I get it. I do. I hear what you’re saying. I really do.

But I want to tell you why you’re wrong.

I used to be the same way. Seeing the outpouring of grief over a celebrity used to fill me with almost a bitterness in a way. I had all those above thoughts, and more. But this time is just different somehow. Hearing of the death of Robin Williams suddenly made me understand something that I didn’t understand before about celebrity death grief.

I just lost someone I know.

Now, of course, I don’t really know Robin Williams. I’ve never met the man. But, like my fiancé Richard said when he heard the news, “I feel like I grew up with him.” See, that’s just it. Robin Williams, and other celebrities, are people that have impacted our lives in one way or another. We turn on the TV, and there they are. We watch a movie, and there they are. They portray situations and events in their roles that give us something to identify with. We remember them.  Especially actors like Robin Williams – the ones who have been around for quite a while. We connect them to events from our past because they were there.

Let me explain.

When I think of Robin Williams, the first thing that immediately pops into my head is Mrs. Doubtfire.  And let me tell you why.  The movie Mrs. Doubtfire first became popular right around the time that I was living in Germany. There’s a scene in the end of Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams, dressed as the old lady “nanny,” gives a speech about parents and children.  He talks about their physical location and the love that remains between a parent and child no matter the distance that may be between them. I hadn’t seen the movie, but I can remember opening a letter from my dad back in the states (my step-dad was the one in the military and I lived primarily with him and my mom), and in the letter my dad told me to be sure to watch that movie. He said there was something at the end that he wanted me to pay special attention to.  So, when I watched it, and heard that part, I cried.  I knew my daddy loved me…even though I had only seen him twice in three years.

And you know who was there for that moment that I remember so well?  Robin Williams.

I know that’s a stretch. But psychologically speaking, I don’t think I’m the only one who connects these people to events from my past. They’ve always been there. We’ve always known them.

And then they’re gone.

And in the case of Robin Williams – here we have lost this man who, on the surface, appeared to be full of happiness and laughter. And what took his life?  Depression. Oh, how we can relate with that.  Don’t lie – you know you can.  Who among us hasn’t felt depression?  Obviously not to the extent that he must have, poor man, but we know that feeling. We know the overwhelming sadness. And, we know what it feels like to paint a smile on to cover it up. We identify with Robin Williams. We identify with his family, with his pain, with their pain. We have lost one of our own.

It’s not a sadness that needs to be belittled.

Now, I’m not saying that the other events of the world are not worthy of our attention. Of course, we need to be saddened by all of the atrocities that are occurring overseas right now. But, thank the good Lord, we can’t identify with those atrocities like we can with the death of Robin Williams. We feel the most deeply over things that affect us. Maybe that’s selfish, but it’s just human nature.

Think how silly it sounds if you put it this way. What if mine and your fathers both passed away at the same time, and I got downright angry at you because you weren’t as sad over my father’s death as you were over your own father’s death. How ridiculous is that?  Of course, you’re not going to be as saddened over my family member as you would be over your own. You know your father, you don’t know mine. Both are human lives that are lost, but one affects you more than the other. It’s just the way it is.

See the connection?

And that’s all I want to say about that.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. I am so sorry for the loss that your family is facing right now and for the pain that you felt while you were here on this Earth. I hope you know what a legacy you have left behind you, and I hope you and your family will get the respect that you deserve through this devastating time.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for the memories.

Thank you for giving us the laughter that you couldn’t seem to find for yourself.

***

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– Robin Williams