Challenging20 September 2014
No. I’m not participating in a public fundraiser. I’m not challenging anyone else to do it, nor am I demanding they forfeit large sums of money if they fail.
A lot of people won’t bother to ask what the Ice Bucket Challenge is for, concentrating merely on the social dimension. A lot will do it and donate to their favourite charity. Most, I hope, will donate to the MND/ALS charity in their region - and have fun doing so.
There’s no sugar-coating this, so here goes.
Me? I’ve painful memories of my dad’s last days to battle with. It’s enough. Ok, so I donated £25 this time round. No fanfare, no fuss, just went online and pressed buttons.
There’s no escaping the simple fact that Motor Neurone Disease is a fatal disease. The odd exception stays around for longer than most but it’s not much of a life.
Nearly twenty eight years after his death in hospital some memories remain undimmed. Not the kind that return on seeing a nearly-forgotten photo. Not those based solely on the photo with no memory of the actual event, no. Powerful stuff.
After the diagnosis my dad knew. And knowing, he gave up, or at least that’s how I remember it. There’s no shame in that, no recriminations from the people he left behind. None.
When your wife and son have to wipe, wash, dry and dress you, when eating becomes difficult, when breathing becomes a strain, the very very worst thing remains - the mind is…
My dad did crossword puzzles when other pastimes became impossible. He did them in his head. Let’s face it, no longer being able to hold a pen can’t be much fun. He’d struggle to make himself understood when we filled the words in but upon completing the grid together the sense of achievement, the triumph, the bright eyes - if only for a moment - gave me an inkling of how important this achievement was.
I also remember the good times - that’s the important thing to remember here.
£25 seems a pitifully small sum of money to give, especially if the current massive outpouring of goodwill advances the understanding of MND/ALS and eases the suffering of those whose lives it destroys.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking you can have a bucket emptied over your head and then give your money to just any charity - the biggest do not need your money right now. Cancer affects much greater numbers. Fighting cancer is important. Everyone I know has someone in their lives who’s survived, or succumbed to The Big C. Yet…
The effects of natural or man-made disasters are, nowadays, there for all to see - often within a scant few hours of the events happening. Such things are often forgotten a scant few hours or days later - there’s no personal connection thus the average human simply can’t grasp the impact.
More fleeting events such as, oh I don’t know, the continuation of famine and poverty worldwide caused by the diversion of funds away from those who need them most, cause me to stop and think.
Just after the shock of 9/11 I donated money, like many, to the American Red Cross’s appeal. My donation was misplaced. Blood donations had to be destroyed as the existing infrastructure was unable to cope. A vanishingly small percentage of the blood got through to 9/11 victims. Sure it swelled their coffers but…
I failed to donate after Hurricane Katrina wiped out much of e.g. New Orleans. If the richest country in the world cannot look after its own why should I, a man of moderate means living in the UK, even think of doing so?
There’s nothing wrong with donating time or money. There’s nothing wrong with feeling better that you’ve helped by giving money. I’m not going to get into ‘Liking’ or retweeting though - suffice it to say I know people who think pressing a button HELPS!
Right now it’s great that MMD/ALS is, even tenuously, high in the public’s consciousness. Don’t be an arse and say they’re ‘stealing’ from more established causes. Don’t try to justify your charity’s position by saying ‘no-one OWNS #icebucketchallenge.’ Some little person somewhere managed to do something innovative without the benefit of advertising departments and focus groups - and it worked. Just accept it.
There’s nothing wrong with a spur-of-the-moment donation either. On this 9/11 (ok, 11 September 2014) a Manchester, UK dogs home was the victim of a nasty, cowardly arson attack which killed around 60 and caused a massive surge in donations. By lunchtime the day after £622,000 (a cool million US$) had been raised. It easily doubled in the few days following - something that no-one could have predicted.
“Think first, donate later.” It’s how I operate now. I happen to believe it’s the responsible way to approach the thorny issue of wanting to do something good whilst staying within the confines of an ever-shrinking pot after all the bills have been paid.
This post originally aired 20 September 2014.