Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'll Dump Ice On My Head... I'm Not Forcing You To

My grandfather died of ALS.

He was 54. He’d had a really shitty upbringing and life handed him a death sentence at the age of 52. And it was painful, horrible death sentence. He wasn’t out having a great day one day and suddenly got hit by a bus and killed instantly. His body deteriorated until he could barely speak, could barely move. He wasted away in front of his family. He knew he was wasting away, he knew he was dying, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. When diagnosed, he was given two years to live. He died almost exactly two years to the day. On his son’s birthday. My mom lost her father at the age of 24. Her youngest sibling was in her teens. My grandmother was a widow in her early 50s. Only three of us grandchildren had ever met him when we were very young (I was 10 months old), and none of us remember him at all. All of us grandchildren grew up without a grandfather on that side of the family. We celebrated every holiday I can remember for the first 16 years of my life at my grandmother’s house… without him. I think I’ve painted the picture well enough, so let me continue.

I have been challenged to do the ice bucket in the name of ALS, and I’m excited to embarrass myself on video in the name of this cause. I’ve already given my donation that goes along with it (see point number 1 below). I’m waiting to do the ice bucket because my uncle is visiting this weekend and I thought I’d give him and my mom the honor of dumping the ice on my head, since it was their father that passed from ALS. I’ll add that humorous video when I do it.

Ok, so let’s move on to why I’m frustrated to the various negativity towards the challenge:

1. To those who say “donate instead”: Please understand the challenge correctly. You’re supposed to donate either way. If you do the ice bucket, it’s $10. If you don’t, it’s $100. There are several reasons many people do choose bucket option. A lot of people don’t have an extra $100 lying around for a charity they’d never thought of before. But a lot of people have $10 and ice lying around. Also, the ice bucket is fun and something people will post to let others know about the charity, so it gets others to donate that might normally not. And if you say that people might have planned to give more but now they only think they have to give $10 with the ice bucket….No.  They’re not going to say “well I was going to be super generous and give $100, but now I’m just going to dump ice on my head and give $10.” If they’re giving that much, it’s a charity they really want to support monetarily, probably because it’s affected them personally in some way. The ice bucket won’t change that.

2. To the “you’re wasting water!” people: I don’t put ice in my drinks because I hate super cold drinks. So all that ice I could put in my soda, water, adult beverage…. mine was just used for charity. Also, did you see those videos of Detroit underwater last week? That storm that came this way.. it rained for several days straight. It’s hurricane season here on the east coast. Do you know what hurricanes mean? Rain! Water! We on the east coast, and much of the country, have no shortage of water at the moment. If you’re in a drought state fighting forest fires, I’m ok with this objection. If you donate every month to Charity Water, I’m ok with this objection. If you opt not to take that extra shower before you go out with your girlfriends/buddies/date to look nicer because saving water is so important to you, I’m ok with this objection. If you have a rain bucket in your backyard and use that water for your food/drinks/teeth brushing, bathing… I’m ok with this objection. But if you’re sitting here watching the forecast that says 60% chance of rain at the end of the week, drinking ice in your drinks, not scrambling through a shower to use less water, not donating to water charities, then I have trouble with this objection.

3. The “it’s attention seeking” objection: I can’t even put my pisssed-offness into words about this. See, I really mean it… I had to just make up the word pissed-offness. I have actually seen people say that they think the ice bucket is attention seeking and in the same post where they put a screenshot of their donation amount and say “instead I just donated xyz amount!” So let me get this straight… you think doing something fun/silly to grab people’s attention and spread the word (while also donating) is attention seeking, but saying “look how much I donated!” and posting a picture of it isn’t? You’ve got to be kidding me! (For the record, I’m not judging either action, I’m just appreciative you did something, but if you’re calling one attention seeking, so is the other).

4. The “It’s not actually teaching people about ALS, just raising money” objection: In a way, these people are right - perhaps not everyone who does this is actually reading the information on the website. In fact, a lot of people probably aren’t. But guess what - same is true for people who just fill in a credit card form online or buy cookies at your fundraising bake sale. You can’t force people to be aware. You can do things to bring attention to the cause, and go from there. And if you raise a ton of money along the way, isn’t that what fundraising is? So if you’re objecting to the specific wording of “it raises awareness of ALS” you might be right that people may not be learning a ton more about the disease itself. But it certainly raises awareness of the foundation and the cause. I’ve never, in almost 35 years, seen so many people talking about ALS, and from what I’ve read, the foundation has never seen such an increase in donations.

5. The “some people don’t donate and just do the bucket” objection: So freaking what? The people who don’t donate most likely weren’t going to do anything at all for ALS. Now at least they’re doing something to make people aware of the challenge and suggest a donation, even if they don’t have the means to donate themselves. As I said in point one, they aren’t people who were going to donate a ton and then say “you know, instead I’ll just dump ice on my head.” But maybe they’ll pass it along to someone who will donate.

I want to be one hundred percent clear that I am not expecting every human to dump ice on their heads in the name of ALS.  If you don’t want to pour the ice over your head, or you don’t get the point of it, if you’d rather just donate without the ice bucket, or if you say “instead of the ice bucket I’m going to dress up in a chicken costume and dance around on video in the name of ALS”, I’m perfectly ok with that. I’m thankful that people are doing anything to raise awareness and/or funds about ALS. I don’t even mind if you post your donation amount (or your chicken costume video or whatever you decide to do). I don’t think it’s attention-seeking, I think it spreads the word. But please stop with all the hate posts and negativity about the people doing the ice bucket. It’s fun, at least to them, it’s for charity, and it’s helped the foundation raise a ton of money in the short time it’s been going on.

I’m sure there are people who I’m going to upset with this post. It’s not directed at any one person. I tried to sit quietly and let the negativity die down, but it’s just increasing. If you’ve posted an anti-ice-bucket meme/post/tweet, it’s nothing personal against you. I still like you as a person and hopefully you still like me. But I had to write about it. People aren’t killing or burning down buildings in the name of their cause. They’re dumping ice. On their own heads. Not yours. They’re not forcing you to participate, they’re doing so themselves. So please, let the ice-bucketers raise awareness and funds in the way they’d like, and you do so in the way you’d like. I’m grateful for all of it.


  1. The saying "no good deed goes unpunished" is true. One thing that you can always count on (along with death and taxes) is that whenever you try to accomplish something, there will always be people lining up to criticize it. You did a terrific job of describing the impact of ALS both on your grandfather and those who cared about him, as well as answering a lot of the objections people have to the ice bucket challenge. If you can't plug all the holes in the dike, so be it.

    1. Thank you! My main objection is the nastiness about the objections. I don't mind if people don't want to do it, but they're being downright mean to those who are. And I agree.... there are always going to be people who have something to say about everything. Those are the people you have to just learn to ignore and not take personally.