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A bucket of sour grapes

Another response to the ALS ice bucket challenge

2 minute read
The right kind of nonsense (Photo by slgckgc via Creative Commons/Flickr)
The right kind of nonsense (Photo by slgckgc via Creative Commons/Flickr)

Tara Lynn Johnson wants to throw cold water on the ALS ice bucket challenge, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the challenge. Instead of rallying people with doom and gloom about any terrible disease or situation, America has chosen to bring the joy of life to an awareness and fund-raiser.

Maybe it is silly, but it is the perfect way to introduce the idea that one person’s problem can also be a society’s responsibility. The bucket of cold water is as much metaphorical as actual. ALS is the “sexy” disease of the moment, but for all those who participate, it will never again be a silent disease. And just because no other issue thought of it first, doesn’t make this uber-successful fund-raising gimmick any less a triumph.

Yes, we have rallied behind star-studded charity concerts. And, maybe the cause behind the drive fades into the wings after the curtain comes down, but for that evening’s show, the tragedy is in a sparkling spotlight. Some people will give and remember it as an experience for a lifetime; some will wait for the next celebrity cause to enjoy. But if they open their hearts with their wallets, even for one evening, a good deed is done.

I would very much like more of our tax dollars to go to all sorts of ills in our society. My voting and work in elections reflect this cycle after frustrating cycle. But, I also recognize the numbing social blindness that purely governmentally funded programs might cause. Several years ago, the subject of giving came up with a friend from Belgium. She didn’t give money to charity because her very high taxes funded charities. As a newly minted American, she didn’t have or really understand the giving habit. But the giving habit doesn’t just raise money; it cultivates a giving spirit. When we give of pocketbook and body, whether it be a 5K run or doing a phone bank, we realize that there is a big world of needs, and we can either be a small bit of the solution or an apathetical part of the problem.

The organizers of these events are inevitably people who have been touched by the problems they represent. Children of Alzheimer’s victims, breast cancer survivors, autism parents, the list goes on. It’s not tough to preach to a captive choir. These massive events open the doors and bring people in to sing along.

We Americans have used public awareness novelties for many years — badges of pride for buying war bonds during the world wars, UNICEF boxes on Halloween, ribbons and rubber bracelets of all colors. Putting a brisk ice bath challenge to the able-bodied in defense of those who can’t raise their arms is the right kind of nonsense.

What, When, Where

The ice bucket challenge has raised $62.5 million for the ALS society as of August 23, 2014. http://www.alsa.org/

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