My thoughts on The ALS Challenge…

This is not my usual posting style. These are caffeine-induced late-night ramblings. I plan to type a few paragraphs and click “publish”…

When a friend called out my family to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I had mixed feelings. I was honoured to be called out — and appalled at being drawn into “yet another social networking phenomenon.” Knowing little about the ALS Association, and feeling confused about charities in general (which ones are most effective? what are the causes most in need? etc…), I was unsure how to respond to the challenge. Our family discussed it, and we decided to accept the challenge — on our own terms. In the end, three of the four of us decided to ask people to support whatever cause is important to them, while my son called out two friends to carry on the challenge as it was presented to us. We each chose an amount to donate to ALS Canada, and proceeded to dump ice water on our heads.

Then I saw Anthony Carbajal’s video — the one that starts with a bikini that reads “Kiss My ALS” and turns into a heartbreaking story about a man whose life has been shaped by three generations of ALS — including his own recent diagnosis. This changed everything for me.

When another friend posted an image to her Facebook page comparing North Americans dumping water on their heads to a child in Africa being fed a capful of clean water, this caused me to ponder another layer of the complex challenges we humans face. The image of the child touched me — how could it not? — but so did Anthony Carbajal’s tragic story. Children living without clean water is horrific. ALS is horrific. Both issues require as much awareness, focus and funding as we can muster… as do so many other worthy causes.

I get the ethical dilemmas at play here. We all have to choose what causes we donate to, and I do not want social causes to jockey for market share in the way that businesses do. On the other hand, maybe we need to read these stories and see these images, as reminders that we can all give more — of our time, our money, our selves…. I know that both the ALS Challenge and the photo of the African child reminded me how important it is that we all work together to lessen the suffering of those we share the world with.

My point is this: let’s not bicker about which cause is the most worthy, and let’s not guilt one another for actions that come from a place of generosity. I think it’s great that the ALS Challenge is leading to debate… but let’s keep it positive and supportive. If someone calls you out — whether to the ALS Challenge or some other call for help — treat it as an opportunity to think about what you can give of yourself, and where you want to direct whatever it is that you’re able to offer. Nobody can make you do anything — they can only challenge you to think and/or act in a way that feels right to you. That’s what this “call-out” has done for me… and I am thankful for it.

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