Nominated for the Epidemic
I began seeing signs of this epidemic a few weeks ago. It was spreading. I was cringing. It looked painful. Uncomfortable. And, truth be told, it also looked gimmicky, mainstream, and sportsy. I like to think I am incompatible with all of those things.
One thing I have discovered about myself is that I am horrible at saying “no” when challenged to do something that is even just semi-good for others. You see, my internal Jiminy Cricket is a little hyper-sensitive being the recovering people-pleaser that I am. When I am challenged, Cricket starts bouncing off the walls of my soul, violently, until I respond. Sometimes I hate responding. But it is the only way I can shut the stupid thing up.
Considering, I have been begging the gods of ice and buckets to just “please, please, please skip me! Please, let no one nominate me! Please no, because I won’t be able to NOT do it!”
Of course, as those gods suck, my wicked friend Andria nominated me just because she knows me so freakin’ well. She knew that my hyper-sensitive Cricket would make me HAVE TO do it! Andria is a manipulator of emotions, using my weaknesses for her gain.
So I tried to turn it around on her. “Sure, I will do it,” I said. “I will do it if you do the Little Black Dress Project with me this coming year. Deal?”
But, knowing Andria, who is unfortunately not as easily manipulated, she probably won’t give a hoot that this was my surrendering demand.
But it was worth trying. I am still holding out.
Why I didn’t want to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
It is Illogical
This whole epidemic’s motivating factor doesn’t make sense. I agreed with these genius thoughts from my friend Angela:
“I don’t really get this whole thing. So the idea is to dump ice water on your head so you DON’T have to give more than $10? Hmmm, okay.“
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t based on the typical precept that most fundraisers are based on, which is “If I do this, you donate this.” But despite that when nominated no one is making us donate and we aren’t really required to make ourselves miserably cold and wet, this challenge is still making a huge impact. Like most things that require social sharing and become epidemic, awareness and donations for ALS are skyrocketing. Check out this graph:
It is Infinitesimal
What was hardest for me to get over is that this isn’t an issue that is caused by injustice or poverty. It is a relatively small although unfortunate problem, but it just is. I notice that these types of problems draw so much attention away from areas where we can undoubtedly make a much more significant global difference.
On principle, for years I avoided advocating for things that affect normal Americans. I concluded that focusing on these types of problems supported the belief that it is our right to be immune to death. We only care about them because they influence us and we are therefore afraid of them. And then we still don’t care about what influences the majority of the world. So instead we work to make our lives last 10, 20, or 30 years longer while those in extreme poverty categorically die 30 years younger than the average American.
For example, there are about 30,000 cases of ALS in the United States according to the ALS Association. But, 30,000 people die every week because of a lack of clean water. Weekly! And we can do something about this. For example, in just a few years those facing water scarcity has dropped by 420 million people. Only 1/9th of the world’s population is now affected by this much larger problem.
Things that hurt Americans too, like ALS, cancer, or chronic issues such as scoliosis (something I have), cause us to fold inward rather than focus outward. It seems fear-based, lacking courage, and not the best use of our resources to have our eyes glued only on these internal problems.
The Flaw in My Principle
But, I am learning that just because I care about people without access to clean water, and care about those who are malnourished, or oppressed, doesn’t mean I can’t also care about those affected and suffering around me. Because it isn’t about the how big the issue is or the location. It is about the individuals.
I can’t imagine Jesus would say “Well, you have ALS, and as that isn’t starvation or human trafficking, so, sucks to be you. I’m moving on to find someone with more injustice-based suffering.” Instead, he walks with those suffering in the slums of Calcutta, in the red-light district of Amsterdam, Kefilwe with AIDS, and with the American with breast cancer, the man with ALS, and even me, when my back is killing me.
Who am I to invalidate someone’s suffering just because it isn’t as global, as extensive, as wrought by other’s evil?
I recently discovered the only person I’ve known with ALS, one of my dad’s best friends, passed away. He was a miracle. He lived much longer than the projected 2-5 years. Listening to his story made me value my health in a whole new way. If anyone had to learn joy in suffering, he surely did.
His marriage also taught me what it meant to be committed to someone. He and his wife stayed married for years, despite the fact he eventually couldn’t move and could barely communicate. When I declared my wedding vows to my husband, and considered what it means to love “in sickness and in health,” I thought about him and his wife. I decided that, so help me God, I would stick through it to the end.
He was a real guy with real suffering. Is family was torn-through because of the epithet “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.”
Love Them Both
The truth is I can and do truly wish there was a cure for ALS while simultaneously hoping for us to pay attention to global suffering we can actively and easily change. My internal God-given cricket affirms we can hope for and work for it all when it is pouring out love.
When I consider the individual, my old principle is stupid. It didn’t get me anywhere in leading others to become more outward focused, it just kept me from caring about others. Instead, I want to be an understanding and loving individual towards whomever, regardless of what their brand of suffering is.
Although I have been coming to terms with how flawed this principle is for a couple years now, this Water Ice Bucket Challenge is my official statement declaring that if one is suffering, I will love them as I would hope to be loved in the same situation.
So here Is This Icy-Water Dumped Declaration:
Did you do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? If not, I nominate you!
If you did the ALS Bucket Challenge, post a link to your video in the comment section below.
Also, do you know of other ways to help those with ALS? If so, please let us know!
See! Look at all the things I made you think by challenging you! You’re welcome. 😉
Elisa…You have some really great points. I also used to struggle with comparing suffering. I would think what right do I have to complain about arthritic knees when someone else has lost a child?? But what I came to realize is that suffering is an individual journey…just as you said. Hopefully our suffering does make us more empathetic and proactive toward the suffering of others. Good job on the article and the challenge.
Being really into global issues this has been hard for me to learn! Thanks for the encouragement and I think you should have posted a link to your awesome video of you pouring water all over you! That rocked!