i took the als ice bucket challenge...will YOU?

i am writing today sopping wet, freezing cold, and grinning. these are good things.

i had really hoped to escape the whole als ice bucket challenge. don’t get me wrong, i LOVE supporting important causes and the people who benefit from and give their vocational lives to them. i LIVE to promote health and healing. i was put on this earth to find love/Love and pass it on. given all this you’d think i had my camera tripodded and ready to film myself pouring water over my head once i’d received the challenge. instead, i cringed. 

in the weeks wherein the challenge has gone viral i have wrestled with it. i read about people’s frustration with the waste of water and watched as some people seemed to me to fake intensity about a cause when all they really wanted was to have people watch their “awesome” video. just about every time i got totally frustrated, however, i would see another video of someone who i know was as earnest as can be donating money and getting wet and encouraging others to do the same. sometimes they added a wrinkle and drew attention to additional causes they cared about. this is the very thing that kricket, who challenged me, did. i had to admit, it was a pretty genius movement as cultural movements go. 

i know people who have lost loved ones to the absolutely awful illness that is als. i have a dear colleague who devotes much of his practice to serving this community. i have missed deadlines to support his fund raising als bike ride because i just plain forgot so i’m glad that others are giving in my absence. i am thrilled that awareness is being raised and funds are amassing for research and treatment.

at the same time as i am thrilled, i hear the concerns about the waste of water (i just spent part of a week with residents of sierra leon who know all too well how precious water is) and see the risk of making what is supposed to be awareness raising become “awareness of how awesome i am and look at me.” it doesn’t stop for me there, however. my own friends and colleagues who have taken the challenge (most of whom have iced themselves plus given money) inspire me. they are willing to be vulnerable in front of a camera, they are willing to put themselves out there in order to promote important work, and, ultimately, it feels as though they are light heartedly joining in a big warm community event.

when i received the challenge i was wracked with distress. should i just write a check? do i really want to call anyone out by name? must i post a video? what will my draught living friends think about me wasting water? is it respectful to those i know who struggle with the painful reality of actual disease to make a video that could seem like i’m promoting myself? i was tied in knots and paralyzed. i processed my concerns with some friends who took my serious concerns very seriously, reminding me that i could take the challenge in whatever way suited me best. then my husband chimed in. “the whole thing is also just fun.” he is right and as much as i want to honor my friends who need water and the community who needs me to take things very seriously i also want to stretch myself to sometimes just lighten up.

so, today, after a run, i stood in a very dead part of my lawn and poured a huge bucket of ice water over my head (and onto the parched and dry grass). i chose not to record it digitally because the point for me isn’t that. for me, it was just doing it that mattered. cold and wet, i came inside, wrote two checks (one to the als foundation and one to american friends service committee*), and changed a promised technology talk at a university to a series of talks about reconciliation and non violence because kricket’s challenge included some twists. one, that i would give a monetary donation not only to als but also to a cause that promotes non violence, and, two, that i would have a conversation with someone about non violence, peace, and harmony because those are things that matter a lot to her (and to me). the final part of the challenge includes asking others to follow suit.

rather than calling out specific others to join me i am asking those of you who read or engage with my blog to take a challenge. i’m not sure what your challenge is because i’m hoping you will take five minutes or so to turn everything off (i’m not kidding) and consider these two questions: what would be a stretching way in which i could give? what would be a cause to which i could give that would lead me to grow a bit? if you aren’t someone who normally gives time, energy, or money to causes that matter to you, perhaps you are to give one of those precious commodities within the next two weeks. if you are someone who regularly gives, perhaps your challenge would be to give in a new way, to stretch yourself by either learning more about the causes you routinely support or finding new movements that might benefit from even small efforts on your part. if you normally write checks, might you consider showing up to volunteer? if you habitually give to international causes, might you find a local one to promote or give to in some way or vice versa? if you go ahead and take the als challenge as it is, might you at least read a bit about what als patients and families face and hold them in your heart and Love. the point is to listen to what would stretch you. heck...maybe your challenge is just to have more fun in ways that honor others...that was a big part of the challenge for me.

once you’ve settled on a challenge might you be willing to share it here via comment or on my facebook page (doreen dodgen-magee, psy.d.) so as to inspire and ignite others toward growing their flexibility and generativity? 

we all are prone to living habitually. this keeps us caught, sometimes tied up in knots. paralyzed in our responses to that which is new, outside of our comfort zones or awarenesses. a good old fashioned cold shower is helpful now and then to jump start our day, our week, our lives, our ways of being in the world.

*american friends service committee (http://afsc.org) does work in the u.s. and around the globe to promote peace, justice, and human dignity. part of my personal challenge is to see if i might be able to do some volunteer work with them around the issue of immigration.