Over the course of the past few weeks, as the Ice Bucket Challenge has spread across the country and throughout the world, I’ve had several folks ask my thoughts on it. I was challenged by a friend across the country and while I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about different aspects of the challenge and reading people’s criticisms of the challenge, I have to admit that I’m mostly a little jealous I didn’t think of it myself.
As someone with a family member with a yet-to-be-cured rare genetic disorder, raising awareness is always a challenge. When I share that my sister has Rett syndrome and someone vaguely says, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that,” I’m always skeptical. Because chances are, if you don’t know someone who has it, you haven’t heard of it. I know that 90% of the individuals who participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge are doing it because it’s a fad. I have also read the stats on how this might hurt how people donate to other organizations. I know this isn’t the case for me, and am equally convinced that some participants are those who might be donating to a cause for the first time. Tempering the amount of water or source of water so as to not hurt the issues around water and drought are also important.
Regardless of who takes the next step and looks into ALS a little bit more and learns about how it impacts people’s lives, I generally believe that raising the awareness of even one person makes raising awareness worth it. I applaud folks who are raising awareness about any issue about which they are passionate. And I hope folks are participating in fundraisers in all kinds of ways.
Today is also the day on campus when we are doing service with our first year students. Several years ago I attended a student leader training where students were lamenting not being able to financially support the organizations about which they felt passionate. We spent a lot of time talking about the ways that one can give back – with time, money, and other resources. As some folks say, sharing time, talents, and treasures. Our campus encourages people to Act on Your Issue. Do you know your issue? And, isn’t part of your issue raising awareness?
When talking about issues of social justice, I tend to think of a progression from awareness to activism. Recognizing where I have privilege (both in terms of the big eight and other areas of privilege) and giving back the ways that I can. Sometimes that is educating myself, other times it is educating others. Yet other times it’s taking other kinds of action around those issues.
So, in this time to support the ALS Foundation, I say go for it. If you want to raise your own awareness and the awareness of others, or if you can make a small donation to help work on finding a cure, that’s phenomenal. I hope that I am fortunate enough to not be touched by this devastating disorder, but I know that as someone who hopes that my friends, family, and acquaintances take a few minutes to learn about things about which I am passionate, this type of fundraiser can have a positive impact in so many ways.
And, in all honesty, I just wish I had thought of it first. I’d love to be raising awareness around Rett syndrome in this way that will also help to find a cure for this disorder. I hope folks will support me in exploring that in October. And, I hope you work to find your own issue to raise awareness and work in ways that justice can become a part of the society in which we exist.