Why I (Almost) Didn’t Do the #IceBucketChallenge

plastic-food-bag-ice-bucket-liner-8-x-4-x-12-1000-bxWhen I was called out to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, naturally some chilling thoughts surfaced:

I have to do this or I’ll look like a party pooper.

If I do do this I’ll begrudgingly have to nominate others and feel like a jerk.

This is gonna hurt the wallet.

I’m not sure I have a readily sanitary bucket.

You see, when some good friends benevolently challenged me and my wife, I got that uneasy feeling like I was sitting across the table from a used car salesman with a bad tie and dirty mustache. Not that I’ve ever faced that but I imagine it’s horrifying. And it wasn’t anything my lovely friends did. It was the whole thing in general.

Honestly, it felt like getting the digital age version of the chain letter. Remember those? Respond to this need to feed hungry beagles, donate a dollar, send it out to five more people and we’ll send you a certificate and a doggy biscuit. But if you don’t respond, no biscuits and seven years of bad luck. So it felt a little chain lettery to me, but the problem was I couldn’t ball it up and move on. Everyone was watching. Every virtual friend I ever had was waiting to see in the next 24 hours if I’d be man enough to accept or if I’d turn it down for some lame-o reason and be the guy who halted everyone’s fun train.

This is ridiculous of course; but who is thinking rationally when summoned to devise a bucket-of-ice-water-over-head-with-brief-speech-while-managing-toddlers-and-not-ruining-iPhone scenario? Not me, obviously. Really though, why not do it?

For one, I’m against compulsory giving. The challenge presents a “give or else” directive. Not mean-spirited, definitely for a great cause, but still compulsory. I know you don’t have to participate. But in this social media world, where Facebook sees everything, isn’t it hard not to feel obligated to accept? The pressure, whether real or perceived, is still pressure.

But I would acquiesce, of course. It’s harmless right, even if the challenge itself (not the cause) challenges my principles a bit. So I realize I’ll have to reach out and compel others, summoning my inner snake oil salesman. So I ask friends first if I can challenge them. A few agree, but one good friend hits me with the respectfully declined invitation due to the fact that the ALS organization, in some form, supports embryonic stem-cell research. I chihuahua. I do care about that sort of thing, though I admit I’m not perfectly studied up on all of it. And I’m not a right wing bag of nuts, if that’s what you’re wondering. I mean really, would I not give to a great organization with a meaningful cause for the simple reason that their research may be contributing to the prevailing sentiment that it’s okay to destroy what I and many others consider to be life, for the purpose of medical intelligence? Well, no, I might not. But it’s an ethical question that deserved pondering.

When I got home, I was 22 hours into being challenged and all of the haze and uncomfortableness made me think I wouldn’t do it. But my son had already heard rumors he was going to get to dump something on Daddy’s head, and there was really no turning back from that. So how could I do this thing with a good conscience and in some small way help the ALS community, which was whole reason for this spectacle anyway?

First, I wouldn’t join the spectacle on social media. Just didn’t sit right for me personally. Perhaps I didn’t want old high school Facebook friends I haven’t encountered in 15 years to see that my hair has receded slightly. But really, I could dump the hashtag along with the bucket of ice water.

Secondly, I would encourage nominees to consider giving somewhere, but not specifically to ALS. Nothing wrong with the thousands who have given there; I’m glad there is so much funding going towards finding a cure.

Lastly, I would encourage prayer for those who suffer from ALS. Certainly, it’s a different kind of gift, but a disease that casts hopeless prognoses could use some hopeful petitioning.

After all was said and done, my son wasted no time dumping the ice water on me and my wife. So the chain was passed on, my underwear was cold and wet, and an ethical decision had been made. Perhaps I thought way too hard about it. I could’ve just knocked it out unwittingly and carried on with my life.

But that’s not how we were made. Our conscience and our ethics are two waters in which we should always delve deep. I suppose, sometimes, the waters are more chilling than we would like.

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