Why I'm not dumping ice on my head
I got tapped the other day by my best friend and favorite person in the world, Dr. Katherine H. Clark, to do that “ice bucket challenge” thing. I was dreading that, and I really hate to say no to Dr.
Here are a few things about it:
- Bluntly, even though I know a bit about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) I… still don’t care that much about it. It’s a rather rare disease, terrible for those who are affected by it but… sigh. We can’t fix everything right away. I wouldn’t start there.
- The gimmicky nature of this thing pushes my “KONY 2012” buttons.
- Oh. I’m really uncomfortable with the part where you call your friends out publicly. I’m not Jewish, but I’m a big fan of Maimonides’s Eight Levels of Charity. Long story short, if people know you’re donating, it’s less of a mitzvah. This thing is designed to draw attention to your donation. It makes me uncomfortable.
- Furthermore, a hundred bucks to me isn’t the same as a hundred bucks to someone else. I know a lot of people who would have to turn down (gently deflect, awkwardly ignore) the challenge because they money is just too much. I realize that it’s totally allowable to donate less if that’s what you can afford, but it’s still putting the expectation out there. It’s extra discomfort for people who don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about.
- Back to the gimmick–I realize that nonprofits do all kinds of clever things to attract attention and get people to give money. I’ve done fundraisers where you pay to join your friends for dinner, or where you pay for a concert, or where there are silly prizes. Sure. The ice-on-your-head thing, though, huh. Maybe I’m old and cranky. I guess the silliness ratio is just too high for my taste.
- Admittedly kind of a non sequitur: For the last two weeks I have been absolutely sick over the police-state bullshit going on in Missouri. It’s driving me crazy that people who consider themselves good Americans aren’t outraged by it. So part of me wants to say “Forget being ‘aware’ of a disease that isn’t anyone’s fault. Let’s all be a hell of a lot more aware of effectively losing the Bill of Rights.” Obviously the ALS fundraiser isn’t the problem here, but it still grates.
- My convenient excuse! My cardiologist says I need to avoid sudden extremes of heat and cold. There you go.
- Finally, now we’re deciding who lives and dies based on which charity has the silliest fundraisers? Cringe?
My objections add up to… not much really. I can’t find the exact words right now, but Dr said something like “Look, if you think it’s dumb that’s fine, but people are doing a fun and silly thing that is nice and helps others and I’m always in favor of doing nice things.”
Hmm. Dilemma. Dr’s right. I don’t want to bug out of doing a nice thing that helps people, but I don’t like this bucket-of-ice thing either and I am not that concerned about ALS.
Now something I do care about is kids with cancer. It’s not so rare: 1 child in 300 is diagnosed with some form of cancer before turning 18. Research into childhood cancer benefits everyone, including adults, and successful treatment of cancer in children obviously has the best payoff if you’re counting future healthy years.
And finally, one of my children was saved from a particularly harsh form of leukemia by an aggressive chemotherapy program that was part of a research project funded by the Children’s Oncology Group, which is now known as CureSearch. (They look pretty good on Charity Navigator too.) I’ll throw $100 in today, and rather than specifically calling out my friends I’m just going to ask you to consider doing the same.
Best of luck to the ALS people.
Mary Jane Sesek
August 22, 2014 @ 10:27 am
Mark, I agree with you 100% on all 8 of your points, especially number 6 about Ferguson. The first time I saw the ice water dumped over the head I said- that is a heart attack waiting to happen!
I did not know that many kids get cancer and wish I could donate but two of my friends’ sons are on life support out in California and need cash for expenses like getting to the hospitals.
As you said sometimes other more pressing needs have to be filled.
August 22, 2014 @ 11:00 am
Nicely done, Mark. My kind of rant (logical, to the point, relevant, and just the tiniest bit of “piss off, I’ll do good things, but in my own way”). If I get tagged by this, I’ll just point them here 🙂
August 22, 2014 @ 12:30 pm
I appreciate all your points. I still don’t quite get it: I think one of the points of the exercise is that it gets people talking, thinking, and reading about ALS which is ignored because it happens so rarely. I hate that in our country we fund cancer and AIDS research. I just learned again today that that Ebola virus that may have saved the lives of 2 Americans is gone now. IN our country, we don’t fund drug research and drug companies tend to research those diseases that will repay them for the research. This model needs to change. So, if you have ALS, or know someone who has it, what can you do? Just die? So the fact that so much money has been raised and so much time has been spent on this topic is a good thing.
I could respond to each one of your comments–the calling out, for example, is simply a way to expand the circle, and hey, it worked–but I won’t. I love that you are giving money to the cancer society. I think that is great. Someone from the APL yesterday gave a small donation to ALS and a larger one to APL. I think that is perfect.
I want to live in a world where research gets funded and people help each other, but that often doesn’t happen. I think we should celebrate kindness.
August 22, 2014 @ 12:59 pm
That’s why I wanted to reinforce the “YAY DR!” part of this. The ice bucket thing isn’t my favorite kind thing, but at least it’s kind!
August 24, 2014 @ 5:54 pm
This is totally out of character for me, but I’ve really been bothered by this post. Ironically, I’m pretty sure I only know you from your charity work, and it would be a shame if the other volunteers at GCC came with the attitude of your first point. You may not know anyone touched by this horrible disease that mostly attacks the fathers of young families, but you do, in fact, at least casually know people who have lost family to ALS. You have a medical condition that precludes your participation? Totally understandable. Money is tight? No problem. But you seem to be advocating that others shouldn’t be helping people in real need because their disease is too rare and the fundraiser is too gimicky. Not cool.