What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge really says about you

As I write this, I’m assuming that you know exactly what the ice bucket challenge for ALS is. If you don’t, then–well, you may or may not be living under a rock. *Not to judge, or anything*. But if you’re of the majority and have either had your newsfeed choked with videos of drenched facebook friends or you’ve taken part in it yourself, you’ve also probably heard the debates.

The challenge, some argue, wastes valuable water that people in Africa are literally dying to drink. Hmm. It doesn’t make sense to me because the same people who are saying that are also going to waterparks where tons of water on a daily basis is splashing on to concrete and serving little purpose. These same people also run through the sprinklers in the summer time, keep the water running as they brush, and take too-long of showers. So that argument just doesn’t do it for me.

AP ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE A FEA USA KS

Then there’s the side that aruges the challenge is dangerous. Some people have gotten hurt while taking the challenge and some buckets have fallen on some heads. Well–I’m not going to touch that one.

The argument though that has gained the most momentum has even gained the attention of the media. The ALS challenge is a fraud, some are saying. The money is landing in the wrong hands. And that was almost enough to sway me.

But then I met Donna.

And she had the best argument yet–if you could call it that.

Donna was a client of mine at work yesterday, and I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with a heavier heart. Her husband is dying, I learned. And he only has a couple more weeks left, at best.

ALS is killing him. “Have you heard of it?” she instantly asked.

And just like a social media dweeb I mentioned the ice bucket challenge and I immediately regretted it. Why would she care about the nation pouring water over their heads when her husband can barely breathe while stuck in bed? So I quickly apologized. But she stopped me.

She told me the ice bucket challenge is one of the greatest miracles that could happen. The disease is a lonely one, but because of the challenge–even her husband feels a little bit less alone.

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The reason ice water is used, she taught me, is because ALS causes muscles and tendons to tense, spasm, and eventually paralyze, ultimately freezing the whole body and all of its functions. Her husband was diagnosed ten years ago, almost to the day, and he told her that ice water is a good way to get a good feel for what it feels like every second of every day. The empathy, in an indirect way, has been healing for him.

This challenge taken on by people all over won’t heal him–of course not. But spreading the word will lead to understanding, understanding will lead to enthusiasm to end it, and eventually, Donna hopes, there will be a cure.

“What better bandwagon to jump on then the bandwagon that lets people know they’re not alone?” Donna said to me. “Despite the money raised, people are learning what this disease is. People are telling my husband, without even realizing it, we see you.”

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ALS isn’t the disease that kills the most people each year–but it does kill. 5,600 people are diagnosed every year and the majority of those only lives two to five years after catching it. It deserves the same attention anything else does. Just as cancer stole my dad last year, I know the feeling of wanting people to just know and to just care that it takes the people we love for good.

I know what it’s like–and you probably do too–to fight a lonely battle and to just wish everyone knew what it’s like. When you dump that water on your head it’s saying a lot about you. To people like Donna and her husband it’s saying, “I know you’re suffering. And I want it to stop.”

I’m not one to use this blog as a bandwagon blog. In fact, if you follow me even semi-closely you’ll notice that a common theme is to stand apart and be individualistic. But I’ve learned that we live in a world of mirrors. Everywhere we look we see ourselves. We see our struggles, our turmoils, our bills, our chaos. And rarely do we have the chance to see someone fighting a battle that has nothing to do with us. Rarely do we get to unite as a WORLD and say “I see you”.

Don’t jump on every bandwagon.

But do me a favor. Jump on this one.

 

gehrig

 

 

Cyberbullies: the “friends” you invite inside

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.

He created water and plants and animals *obviously I’m paraphrasing here but bear with me*.

And he created man and woman–his crowning creation.

And that crowning creation had to learn how to keep this planet revolving through communication, hard work, family relationships, and expression. This crowning creation evolved over thousands of years, learning what it takes to survive–and thrive–together.

In those days, days that our parents and possibly even we got to enjoy (when we only had one world) it was hard to confront a neighbor about the dog that keeps peeing in your yard. It was guilt-riddling when you accidentally voiced how someone’s new haircut looks bad, and you had to deal with watching the tears roll down their blushing cheeks. It was sometimes hard to express an opinion different than someone else’s because you were worried that he or she might take it the wrong way–and that was TERRIBLE because you CARED about them. I remember those good ol’ days–and I’m not even THAT old.

But then, God’s crowning creation decided to create their own world. A new world. Cyberspace. Complete with walls, streams of popular music and videos always playing in the background, instant letters that pop up before someone’s eyes within seconds of sending–even without a stamp. In this world we hang a picture of ourselves and invite friends in, even friends we don’t know. We share our photo albums and quickly leaf through others’ as well. We laugh (lol) and we cry ( 😥 ) and all the while we hide.

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We hide behind brightly lit computer screens, sometimes thousands of miles away from the person we invite inside our “domain”.

And suddenly, with the creation of that new world which popped up not even that long ago– so many of us have forgotten that the “friends” or “followers” or the voiceless profile pictures that we interact with on a daily basis are people just like us, another one of God’s crowning creations, hidden behind another computer screen.

And with that lapse in memory as we live within our comfortable cyber houses and decorate our cyber walls, so many people become people they never would have been in the world we were supposed to live in–the one with real water and mountains, real expressive faces, and real houses full of real friends.

Cyberbullying, a new term that had to be coined because of the fact that it takes place in a new world, is causing God’s crowning creation to turn against one another with cold-heartedness that comes because we’ve forgotten each other. We’ve forgotten that in this simulated house we’ve built, we have real guests who will at some point leave, and take with them what we’ve said.

Just a couple days ago I heard this story.

A 12-year-old girl–a pretty, smart, sweet girl– jumped off of a building and killed herself. Why? Because the visitors within this cyber world, the ones cowering behind computer screens, told her to. They told her that she’s hated. That she deserves to die. They called her names and continuously jabbed at her–not even giving a second thought before hitting “enter” or “post”. Day after day, even after she shut down various forms of communication, they got through to her. And finally, that cyber world meshed with her real world. And she jumped, just like someone told her to. It took less than ten seconds for someone to type that–someone who probably doesn’t even know her in this real world. Ten seconds stole the life of someone who had been alive for 12 years.

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Cyber-bullying is real. It’s not some abstract, horrible story we hear about in the movies. Open your newsfeed. Read comments on a blog. Sift through comments on a news story or pictures in an online album. I promise that within minutes you’ll find a trace of it. You most likely have even been a vicim of it. I know I have. And that’s because not all cyber-bullies would be real-life bullies–some of them are kind, responsible people in the real world.

In real life, those bullies have to look into the eyes of the ones they call names. They have to see someone wince with pain at every insult or shrink back in fear over a threat. They have to hear responses from those they converse with and learn real-life stories told with real pain or real emotion. The emoticons such as this: 😀 or this:  😦 are actually the sounds of someone laughing, someone crying. But in cyber land, they are silent. The only sound we hear is the tapping of our fingers against the keys and our own thoughts–thoughts sometimes riddled with rage or selfishness.

We are still God’s crowing creation. And we still share this beautiful, REAL earth with beautiful, REAL friends and even strangers who come along the way. And whether it be your cyber place, complete with little updates about your day or photos from your last family vacation, or your real home, complete with conversation, manners, and handshakes– be a good host.

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Because your visitors, your friends, and your followers will leave at some point, looking up from cyberspace and into the real world.

And they’ll remember how you made them feel.

I wish the cyber-bullies who hurt that precious 12-year-old would understand that. I wish they’d realize she took those words with her, long after she exited that online realm and took a leap off a very real, dangerous tower.

I wish everyone would realize that sticks and stones sure do break bones, but words–those matter too.

Even in that other world that we ourselves created.

Related articles

http://stopcyberbullying.org/