Have you taken the ice bucket challenge? According to the Independent, this internet sensation has raised £48 million in less than a month with 1.7 million people donating.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is really encouraging for a number of reasons.
It has raised awareness of ALS (known as MND in the UK).
It has raised lots of money to help people who are suffering and we are all hoping and praying that the research it funds will make a real difference.
The challenge helps to make people feel good because they feel they have helped and made a difference.
One of the most positive things about the campaign is to show the difference we can make when a lot of people give a little. Most people have only given £3, but together these small amounts have added up to a large amount.
These things really encourage me but I also have some concerns about the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Although it has raised awareness, do we really know what MND is? According to the MNDA website:
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting.
MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. However, not all symptoms necessarily happen to everyone and it is unlikely they will all develop at the same time, or in any specific order.
Is our thinking that we want to help those poor people or do we really want to understand something of what they are going through? If you have taken part you may want to take a while browsing the excellent MDNA website and learning more.
When we put pressure on people to do things that they may not want to do it is usually called harassment or bullying. This seems an odd thing to suggest in this context as the challenges are usually between friends, but it may be true in some situations. Imagine if someone knocked on your door and said you can tip this bucket of water over your head and give me £3 for the charity I am collecting for or you can just give me £100 instead. How would you respond? Would the bucket of water end up over their head? If the people challenged don’t want to take part, how should the challengers respond? I hope they can be good enough friends with them to respect their wishes rather than pressuring them.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been so successful because it is fashionable. Is the aim of taking part to have fun or to raise money? Only each participant can say for themselves. There may be nothing wrong with just having fun but shouldn’t the focus in the challenge be mainly on the charity rather than on us having a laugh?
This is the thing puzzles me the most, how does the challenge help us to identify with people with ALS/MND? Shouldn’t there be a wheelchair challenge to raise money to help fund disabled access. Spending an hour or two in a wheelchair in a city centre should be enough to give us a glimpse into the daily frustrations faced by those who are wheelchair bound. Or how about a 24 hour fast to raise money to help feed people who are dying of starvation? These things may not be so popular as there is no instant rush or fun element, but they are more worthy fundraising ideas because they help us to understand a little of the suffering of the people who we are trying to help.
The thing that discourages me the most about the ice bucket challenge is this, should we really need to be challenged to give money? Reminders to give are good, but if we mainly give to charity when we are pressured to do so then what does that say about who we are? The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver. We should give willingly and happily and not because people put pressure on us to give.
The purpose of me writing this is not to have a go at people who have taken part. On the contrary, I say well done to anyone who has given money to charity.
My main point is to ask us all to consider how we will continue to give? If we choose to give £1 a month to a charity of our choice, this is more effective and helpful than giving a one-off donation of £3. Charities plan ahead based on regular giving. If you really want to help ALS/MND research then why not sign up and give something on a regular basis.
This is my
challenge suggestion to you (if you don’t take it up, I understand). Why not sign up to give a regular amount of money to the charity of your choice? The amount should be dependent on your income and on how much you already give away to charity. Lets give because we want to and not because we have to. If it makes you feel better you can also pour some water over your head, but that is an optional extra!