[Write On] The Community Service Challenge

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock that’s under a rock, your social media – and news – feeds have been bombarded and taken over by the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge‘.  The basic premise of the challenge goes like this: once dared, you have 24 hours (some give you 48) to either donate money to the cause, or create a video where by some means or another a bucket of ‘ice water’ gets dumped on your head; then you pass it along.  I’ve had all sorts of feelings about the challenge – from cheering on celebrities to laughing at failed attempts, to wondering “Why ALS?” to an honest  “Why?” in general.  Until I was dared by a friend to take part of the challenge last week, I decided to bite my lip, hold my tongue and watch how it all played out…but now that I’ve done, and donated, I feel like I have a leg to stand on as far as my opinion is concerned. But, before I get into it – let’s back up a bit.

ALS (Amyotrophic  lateral sclerosis) is a terrible Neurodegenerative Disease that slowly breaks down nerve cells, preventing signals from being sent to muscles – eventually, causing muscle and neurological degeneration while hardening the spinal cord.   Here’s a few more basic statistics about ALS while we’re at it

No one can sit here and deny the success or merits of the campaign – in fact, it’s genius: let’s crowdsource for a cause. When the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ was first created, it wasn’t a charity specific phenomenon – it was for all charities (something I think we could all get behind if that was the message), and the message was loud and clear – let’s raise our social awareness, promote viral education, and fund the necessary research.  But now, here we are – California’s in the midst of it’s largest drought ever, there are 800 Million people throughout the world that have no access to clean water, Ferguson has become a civil rights nightmare, don’t get me started on the Middle East and ISIS…and we’re standing around, arguing the merits of  dumping buckets of ice on our heads. Think about the message we’re sending – and what’s being received on the other end;  through a game of proverbial telephone played out via viral videos – the actual dialogue or message about ALS and altruism alike have been lost – all that remains seems to be the ego.

As far as ALS is concerned – the Ice Bucket Challenge has become an international sensation; within a week, $10 Million in donations quickly catapulted to the almost $90 Million they had as of this morning.  Judging by the exponential growth of the cause, it could very well break into the $100 Million mark by the end of this week, if not sooner. To boot, thousands upon thousands of people who would’ve never known what the acronym stood are spreading the word, educating themselves and acting in step with a great ca have their social circles fighting together for a great cause. So now, you might be thinking: it’s bringing people together, it’s getting the word out there.  But, some of the videos as of late have completely forgotten that there even was a cause beyond their own momentary internet popularity.

Then take a step back, and let’s rebrand it as a ‘Charity Challenge’: you pick your charity, you let your peers pick theirs – and the community service aspect truly can make it’s way back to the community.  At any time, any of the people participating in the ALS-IBC could’ve picked a different charity for their contribution – I did; I also donated to ALS.  Charity is a veritical on the branch of Altruism – the belief or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others. When you’re concerned for the well-being of others, there isn’t an incentive attached – or, a bucket full of ice water, or 15 minutes of viral fame.  No one should necessitate attention or praise to do something as simple as writing a check, especially for those that’ve already reached celebrity status.  One thing that I understand, when you’re a star – actions speak louder than words, and viral videos – doubly so.  But when the message is take the bucket, or donate – I’m begging for a byline that reads: I did both!  

I’m not touting, doubting or shaming the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – in fact, I hope that all other charities can find a similar model to follow (…that doesn’t destroy resources.)  Regardless of how everyone feels about it, we’re all sitting around – talking about it; and that’s the point, right? I’m more aware than I was before I got this dare; I hope you all are now, too.  I’m also aware of a vast redistribution of wealth that has to take place in this country so that certain diseases, disorders and charities can continue doing the good work they’ve set out to do – and that reaches far beyond ALS.  Athletes, movie stars, singers, writers and the other media mavens out there have something precious that the rest of us don’t – a voice; with great power comes great responsibility and I hope more start using it to raise their voice for awareness.

Lots of people are doing it wrong:

And these guysare doing it right:

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Charlie Sheen’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Matt Damon has a different take on the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

If you can’t tell by now – no, I didn’t make a video; and even if I did, beyond my cats I don’t have anything to show.  There’s no ice, no bucket, no water – instead, I donated – and wanted to impart some wisdom that I took away.  Instead of spending our mental energy making a video – or bashing a good cause – we could be converting this potential energy that we all have into something active, kinetic and helpful around our neighborhoods.

Do what you can, with what you have, for the people you care about –  whether it’s family, friends, your community…or all of the above.  Donate to your favorite cause, protest against a bad one, volunteer at a homeless shelter, read to kids at the local library, hang out at animal shelters to walk the dogs and hang out in the cat rooms, find a charity that your work gives back to, or run a marathon for charity.  Don’t be afraid to be proud of your work, but make sure you do it because you care, because you want the world to be healed and whole, and most of all – because you can.

If you’re still looking for places to donate – here are a few links:

Donate Water

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

American Red Cross


American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy



And not that it matters, but here’s where I donated.






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