ALS, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and Global Community

My grandfather (right) danced with my grandmother, played golf in his colorful sweaters, and ran his business with the same joie de vivre (enjoyment of life). I always anticipated trips to their beautiful home on the edge of a golf course and the loving attention he gave all of us. He was bigger than life and I was his little shadow.

The many-roomed house became lit up and magical every year during the Christmas season as my grandparents welcomed guests – until the Christmas of my fifteenth year when he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The wasting, neurodegenerative disease trapped his vibrant personality in its vice grip. It became painful for him to speak, to swallow, and to lift his hand to touch us.

As we sat near his chair, he would laugh as he enjoyed our presence, but the laughter caused intense pain so he would start to cry. I left the room many times so he wouldn’t see me break down. On the day he died, his brother sat beside him and sang him home into God’s presence. I stayed away that day because I wanted him back so badly. Now I wish I had stayed near.

Today I value his life – the joy, hard work and love he modeled for me. So I’m glad the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised awareness and funds to fight the disease. I encourage anyone who is making a donation to give to an ethically focused organization that does not conduct embryonic stem cell research.

While we can become driven to distraction while mindlessly scrolling through the news feed on social media, there are benefits.

We can become a global community.

For example, photojournalist Brandon Stanton is now traveling the world on the Humans of New York/UN world tour humanizing places like Iraq and Kenya by drawing stories out of people and posting their stunning photos. As evidenced by the comments that pour in, people are moved by them and have sometimes rallied to help people both in New York City and in other countries.

If we use discernment concerning where we give and sift through bogus news reports, we can focus on a need or cause and become a united force to make a difference. The Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral and a boatload of money has poured into the coffers for ALS research. One hundred years ago, such grassroots efforts were impossible. Going further back in history, news traveled very slowly so people only knew what was happening in their immediate sphere. News was precious, but often came too late. I’m glad to get instant updates about the situation in Ukraine and the plight of Syrians and Iraqis. We don’t have to become numb. We can pray, give, and get involved.

We can pour buckets of ice water on our heads and challenge our friends to do the same. Or not.

We can start movements for change. We can light a fire that goes viral.

What cause would you want to go viral?

How would you start?


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