Does anyone else look up from their phone or computer and feel like the world is falling apart at the seams? Between disease, war/armed conflict, living breathing racism, and heightened awareness of depression that leads to suicide, I’m just not sure I have words for how to address all of this.
Enter the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge…in less than a month ALS Association has raised over $88.5 million by initiating a social media challenge based on a “pay it forward” kind of approach. People were challenged one to three at a time to either dump ice water on their head or pay $100 to ALSA in a 24 hour period. The idea became to raise awareness of the disease, the need for research, the care for families living with this disease, and also to raise money. It quickly changed from either ice water or donate to donate and ice water or $100.
Out of the enormous success of this social media storm there have been friends of mine who have taken the opportunity to raise awareness about other underfunded diseases, making a donation to ALSA and to support other causes. I was challenged by a high school friend (along with the rest of our high school class) to donate Nikki’s Army. At 37 years old, our dear friend Nikki Adcock Williams who is a law professor, wife, and mom of two still in grade school, was diagnosed with Multiple Myloma. This link will help to defray the costs of her health care.
I was also challenged by a seminary friend to donate to Families of SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophe). A couple we went to seminary with lost their first child to this genetic disease. Researchers believe they may be close to preventing this disease, and they are working on treatments and therapies to help families living with the disease. Still the sadness of their loss that is still a struggle, is not forgotten. We have not forgotten Sarah Ann, and we pray for the grief of her family who are making a difference for so many other families touched by this disease.
Don and I are giving to both of these meaningful ministries. But with the opportunity to shed light on other ministries, I could not pass up the chance to invite others to living generously all the time. You see, I don’t think anyone at ALSA could have foreseen what kind of generosity could have come from a friendly awareness competition challenging one another to out-do friends, family, and colleagues in giving a one time donation in a short deadline. I’m sure they were hopeful, but I’m guessing they didn’t expect to raise over $80 million (so far). But look at the difference that was made by a few challenging/inviting another few to bring awareness to a problem, and welcoming people to help with a cure. Anyone who donated changed this disease a little. Anyone who brought attention to the disease changed this disease a little, and all together, this money is going to change the world a little. Imagine if this challenge actually funds research to eradicate this disease. Imagine if we could do that with other diseases. Now imagine if we could eradicate hunger, and provide clean water around the world.
Speaking of this, I will also be making a donation to Week of Compassion who works with Church World Service to provide access to clean water to those in the world with out access to clean water, and who also only keep 6-8 cents of every $1 for administrative costs (so they are effective stewards of the gifts they are given).
Imagine if we could help to lower the fear between the races in our county and build up trust? What might happen if we could claim our history and understand that because we see with our eyes and hear with our ears we treat others differently even if we don’t mean to. What might happen if as white people we tried to live in solidarity with our African-American brothers and sisters and understood that life in this country is different for people of color not because people of color are poor or ignorant or talk funny or shoot each other or are trouble makers or are criminals, but life is different for people of color because we see color and we associate stereo types even if we don’t mean to, even if we don’t want to. And simply because of that, white people live with a privilege we don’t ask for and don’t want, but don’t want to give up either. What might happen if we believed we could eradicate racism and we actually looked for ways to heal it rather than blaming people of color for the problem? We could make a difference if we chose to understand the problem and its history. For that reason I am also going to make a donation to Reconciliation Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who are working to reconcile the races in our churches and in our country and who are actively anti-racist.
Imagine what might happen if we tried to understand the conflict in Iraq and befriended Iraqi people in our country rather than fearing them. What would happen if we sought to be in peaceful relationship learning from one another rather than expecting “them” to learn “our” language (as though we own English). It might not put an end to ISIL, but it would bring us a long way to changing the narrative of “fear the other,” that is being passed around our country.
Finally, imagine what might happen if we talked about depression, not as something to be ashamed of, but as something that makes people brave. What might be different for young people and older alike who are struggling with the darkness of depression and anxiety if we actually supported one another giving permission to feel and also avenues for help? How many lives could be saved and productive in the world if we would actually take responsibility for our children and young people for our adult relationships and our elderly who are losing hope? And instead of shaming suicide understanding how desperate one is for relief. Instead of blaming family and friends and teachers and colleagues for not knowing, what if we prayed with them and gave them space to grieve out loud and not in shame? What if we gave them space to be support for others who struggle and suffer so that maybe another family will not have to lose their loved one? So my last donation for this work will be to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in honor of Nik Prichard, whom I did not know, but I know his parents and I know that his family misses him desperately, and I remember their pain.
What I am really trying to get at with all of this imagining is that as a person of faith I understand that I have been abundantly blessed by God with more than enough to share. That is not to say I am rich (though I think that is relative to where you live to a certain extent), but it is to say I am richly blessed. And in light of how God has blessed me and my family the only way I know to respond to God’s grace and blessing is to be generous in return and forward. I am prayerful that this joy of competition and awareness for ALS will show us what we can do even with small gifts. When they are put together they make a big difference. We can make a big difference. So if you have been blessed, richly blessed take a moment to thank God and share some of your blessings. Maybe we can change the world.