The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
It’s true. I dumped a bucket, or rather a bowl, of ice cold water over my head.
It had to be a bowl because I don’t normally keep clean buckets hanging around the house for such a purpose.
In fact, since all of my buckets are either filled with dirt and weeds from the garden or lined with sand from the beach, I used the big, green bowl, the one that holds the pasta salad at cookouts, and has held the Halloween candy for neighborhood trick-or-treaters every year for the past 21 years.
Then I posted pictures of my silliness on Facebook, and I did it all because my nephew asked me to, or rather, threatened me, blackmailed me, extorted money from me.
Well, which is it? Was it a bucket or a bowl? Was it a request or extortion? Do these details matter, as long as it was all in good fun? I think maybe they do, because they speak to how this type of crazy, online, social phenomenon can show us how lucky we all are.
It’s been almost a week since I saw my first ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video on Facebook, and with time, I’ve noticed the game has changed. It’s like the Operator game we played as kids where the message whispered into the first person’s ear differs dramatically from the message called out by the last player at the end. The rules are changing as the days go on, with a bit more money being extorted, I mean requested, from players now than it was at the beginning.
And the creativity in the videos has exploded, thanks to the one-upmanship we humans exhibit when engaged in any sort of challenge. At first, it was simply people dumping water over their heads. Now, there are bobblehead toys and men in bikini tops getting doused, and dogs, way too smart for such foolishness, running away from the challenge, presumably to get their checkbooks to make a donation to the ALSA.
Also, as the game goes on and the rules change, reactions to it have changed. Comments that were once positive and supportive are now turning a little critical, pointing out that people would rather freeze than donate money to a worthy cause. Others say that the game is too gimmicky now, and why should people feel pressured to give to a charity when they have favorite charities of their own, and didn’t we leave peer pressure behind in middle school?
I say, everyone gets to be right here, and everyone gets to win this game, whether they accept the challenge or not, whether they donate money or not, whether they approve of the collective silliness or not. Because this is the type of phenomenon that reveals our good fortune.
For many of us, this is just one of those goofy things that brings us together, that gives my nephew, whom I don’t see often enough, the chance to reach out to me and say, “My auntie is a good enough sport to go along with this,” and it gives me the chance to say, “I’ll do whatever you ask me to, Nate, because you mean so much to me.”
And it gives the sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, a voice, and with it, the chance to say, “We’re here, and we need some help, and thank you for what you’re doing for our awareness and fundraising campaign.”
And it gives me a chance to use my big green bowl for yet another fun purpose, to add to the memories it holds of backyard cookouts and my annual Halloween sugar coma. But most importantly, it gives me the chance to say, thank God I don’t have ALS, and thank God I do have friends and family who recognize my silly nature and are willing to call me out and share this challenge with me, so that we can all help the ALSA with their mission, to lead the fight:
To treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.
In short, to paraphrase the great Lou Gehrig’s famous speech, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge makes me feel like I am the luckiest woman on the face of the earth.