On making a difference: The Ice Bucket Challenge

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keep-calm-and-ice-ice-baby-13In the beginning there was a video.


It started a few weeks back with one video on Facebook of a friend’s kids dousing themselves with a bucket filled with a mixture of H2O in liquid and solid form splashing themselves with perfectly good cocktail material. Egad.

And then another video would pop up. And another and another and suddenly celebrities were in it, too. People were positively having an online ice bucket water fest and the videos were starting to become increasingly more creative / wonderfully bizarre and it seemed to all get a bit out of hand, really.

At which point Upworthy entered the picture and served up a clip cunningly entitled “The Last Ice Bucket Challange You Need To See“.

Perfectly timed click bait, I thought. But enticing, none the less. So I went ahead and followed the call.

Game changer alert!

After having watched dozens of weirdly fascinating clips of artists, politicians, athletes, friends and perfect strangers seeming to just follow the latest craze, watching the brutally honest, heartbreaking and humbling 4 minute video of one Anthony Carabajal’s Ice Bucket Challange and subsequent explanation on why it matters to him, gave me pause and made me take a closer look at what is currently going.

Because I know that man.

Not Anthony Carabajal in the video. But that man. That person. That person just finding out that he has a life threatening disease and realising that there is little hope.  That man struggling to come to grips with the fact that life the way he knew it before the diagnosis was over for him and having to face what’s coming. And KNOWING what’s coming.

I watched that man battle, wither and deform over the course of two years until his body finally gave in and he died. And then years later one of my best friends. And then shortly thereafter my father. They did not suffer from ALS but from AIDS and cancer.

There are many big, scary diseases out there. ALS is one of them.

And IMHO, any honest effort to help increase awareness, advances chances to find  a cure and promotes positive vibes for the people affected of ANY of these diseases is a an endeavour worthy of some of my time, talent and resources. And if this entails throwing a bucket of ice over my head and donating some cash, then so be it. Bring on the bucket.

These days the web is awash with charitable projects to support one cause or another. They come and go and are usually barely able to draw interest from the general public unless there is a big celebrity helping to promote it.

But for some reason this campaign resonated with thousands of people. Maybe it’s because anyone can participate no matter what age, size, status, race or gender. The simple act of throwing some ice water over your head for a good cause is something (almost) anyone can do. The challenge was and still is spreading like a wild fire and is giving ALS a voice – if only for a brief moment in time.

All the more I marvel at the amount of negativity that seems to have attached itself to the Ice Bucket Challenge as of late.

Sure, many of the challengees may not have donated or are not aware of what ALS is. Maybe they donated 1 dollar or 10 dollars only, because it’s all they could afford. Or maybe they weren’t able to contribute at all. Or maybe they donated to cancer research instead of ALS. Maybe they just wanted to be part of something bigger. It doesn’t really matter.

Because to me it proved that there is a currency other than money: It’s called kindness.

And who can really tell the true impact this challenge has had on the lives of the people affected by ALS? Who can measure the positive outcomes that may have sprung from this slightly crazy avalanche of do-goodery? Maybe someone like me, who knew very little about this disease got inspired to help search for a cure, maybe someone decided to donate their time to help out at someone’s home, or shelter or hospital. Who knows what events may have been triggered by the simple act of throwing a bucket of ice cubes over your head?

The Ice Bucket Challenge is not everybody’s cup of tea, of course.

I understand and respect that.

But I find trying to construe ways to degrade and belittle it a bit irksome. Try as I might, I cannot bring myself to even spend the time making an argument of why a picture of people doing the ice bucket challenge juxtaposed with a parched child in Africa is contemptuous and ill-bred.

Non sequitur, people. It. simply. does. not. compute.

Life is complicated and harsh sometimes. The Ice Bucket Challenge somehow managed to propel a very serious and grim topic into the consciousness of thousands of people. And it did it with a wink and a smile. I admire that.

Personally, I found the stream of water splashing madness, this wave of positivity a refreshing change to the constant onslaught of dismal news items and cute cat videos.

I hope in the future that there will be more unconventional projects like this.

Because I like projects and people who do not point fingers or assign blame. But rather take a different approach and try and DO something. It may not be perfect. But it’s a start.

And I will happily support any such project again to the best of my abilities in the future.

Because. I am a star thrower

I believe that sometimes the need of the one outweighs the need of the many.

I believe that making a difference to one person can be the seed of which a bigger change can grow.

Or as e.e. cummings said

“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”

If you want to go ahead and join the movement: consider yourself nominated.

And begin. Anywhere.