Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!
I spent the better part of my 20s wearing a “Livestrong” band on my left wrist – not because I was particularly into cancer research or awareness, or even because I was a fan of Lance Armstrong (back in the days when people would actually publicly admit to liking the now-disgraced Tour de France champion).
No, I wore the bright yellow band because it was the thing to do; I also spent much of my 20s drinking out of a Nalgene water bottle and wearing New Balance sneakers for the same reason. I paid $1 for the Livestrong band from a guy who was selling them in the student union at college, and aside from that, I never donated a single penny to Livestrong – or any other cancer research organization, for that matter.
The Ice Bucket Challenge
So when I first saw all my friends dumping cold water on themselves, their spouses, and their children – all in the name of “charity” – I figured it was another fad, just like the Livestrong bands. And I wasn’t impressed.
I haughtily told anyone who would listen – my frozen, soaked friends; the clerk at the grocery checkout; my waiter at the great burger place in town – that when I got tapped for the Ice Bucket Challenge, I was going to take the moral high road and donate the $100 to ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) rather than taking “the easy way out.” (If you’re not familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, you can visit the ALS Association’s website here for more details.)
I nodded my head in agreement when I read Facebook posts from friends who wrote things like:
“Please stop pouring buckets of ice water on your heads and just give a few bucks to a charity (any charity) instead!”
Comes to a Head
And then my best friend in the whole world challenged me, on the very same day that a man I work with reminded me that his father was quickly losing his battle with ALS and likely wouldn’t make it to Christmas.
My husband called me a humbug, and he was right. In my effort to take what I saw as the “moral high road” – skipping the challenge and donating directly to the ALS Association instead – I was forgetting what the challenge was all about.
What the Ice Bucket Challenge is REALLY About
It’s not just about raising money (although that’s a major element – the New York Times reports that the ALS Association’s fundraising for the first 3 weeks of August has gone up nearly 1000% compared to 2013 donations for the same period). The challenge is really about imprinting ALS in your memory. You might forget how you felt after writing a check to charity, but you’re far less likely to forget a bucket of ice water dripping down yourself. What the Ice Bucket Challenge is doing – and doing effectively – is imprinting ALS on our brains; it’s making a disease that’s horribly debilitating, often overlooked, and largely misunderstood a part of our collective discourse.
So I sucked it up, and let my husband (with the help of my 2 kids) pour a vat of frigid water on my head over the weekend. My kids thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen me do (it probably was), and my husband insisted that I challenge him in turn. At the end of the day, we were both cold, wet, and $200 poorer – but our hearts were infinitely warmer and richer.