reflections: ALS ice bucket challenge

As we continue to further unfold into our ‘information age,’ I am so inspired by people who are able to promote awareness, raise reflection, and support causes using social media tools. The viral ALS ice bucket challenge was one of those fundraising/awareness campaigns that really inspired me, while also challenging me to reflect on my own philanthropic and service practices.  I am fully responsible for at times participating in what is not-so-affectionately called ‘slactivism’ or #hashtag activism that may not result in positive change- so I have been reflecting on how I can be more authentic, especially in a time when we are in a state of nonstop sensory overload.

What I loved about the ice bucket challenge:  I loved the amount of awareness that Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) received as a result of this challenge.  I loved that this effort went so viral. Children participated.  Groups participated.  Families participated.  It was a creative and light way to bring awareness and elevated compassion to people who live with ALS, and families who support people who live with ALS.

Where I felt uncomfortable:  I felt uncomfortable being ‘coerced’ into a specific philanthropic commitment.  Thankfully, I didn’t get challenged until the tail end of the viral campaign- so I had the opportunity to really dig deep into this discomfort.  There are many causes for which I have passion, and I felt uncomfortable being asked to give to this specific cause in a public way, with (what felt like) no way to respond.  As I explored my discomfort more deeply, I also realized that I felt guilty for feeling these emotions.  As an educator, I was embarassed by what I was feeling, and I didn’t want anyone to know.  I did not want to be judged.  I also felt guilt that came from insecurity that I always carry- around the fact that I am not sure I ever do *enough* to serve others.  That statement, I will sit in more, in another post.  🙂

From my discomfort, I went to judgment very quickly.  Questions about ‘how could they waste so much water?!’ to ‘are people really donating anyway?’… Essentially, I did anything to intellectualize and subsequently dehumanize the conversation- to cover my own discomfort.

Where I felt inspiration and liberation:  A dear friend from college, Marcie, challenged me a few weeks ago- at the height of my personal tension in all of this.  She did something amazing.  She promoted awareness of ALS, and then she contributed to two causes that were close to her heart.  Another friend, Ankita, raised awareness about the race-gender based violence against Black men based on what was happening in Ferguson, and she also engaged in an #alsstillnesschallenge to get a sense of how much we rely on/take for granted the neurological control we do have.  Yet other friends had #ricebucket challenges and #trashbucket challenges, and just like that people were doing really wonderful things all over the place.

Closer to wholeness:  This whole experience allowed me to be honest with myself.  It made me challenge my internalized ‘stuff.’  It inspired me to take responsibility- of educating myself about issues that may not feel most salient to me; of committing financially to the causes for which I do have passion; and for not feeling guilty about the way that I feel.

I want to continue to work on being more authentic.  More honest.  More joyful.  More whole.  With that, I leave you with my personal favorite captain (Patrick Stewart/ Jean Luc Picard), who captures this authenticity best- here.


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