Over the past few weeks I watched my Facebook friends take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge itself has been a remarkable success, with millions raised for ALS. It’s a very worthy cause, and I think it’s terrific so many people are participating to raise funds and awareness. Though I was tagged many times, I chose to donate over participate because being drenched in ice water isn’t my thing.
ALS isn’t my charity of choice. When I give, I prefer to give to breast cancer charities, as my mom is a breast cancer survivor, and prostate cancer charities, because my father battled with the disease for several years before he passed away in 2000. I also donate to children’s charities, especially those that put money towards birth defect research, awareness, treatment and rehabilitation because my niece Madeline passed away at the age of three months after it was discovered (too late) that a birth defect was killing her. I’m telling you these stories because they are personal. Donating to these charities makes me feel as if I’m honoring people who are special to me.
Charity is a personal thing
The truth is, I probably wouldn’t have donated to ALS if not tagged. My choices were to dump ice water on my head, even though I didn’t really want to, donate to a charity that isn’t personal to me, or not do anything at all, which would probably make me look douchey to a whole bunch of people. Even if they didn’t make me feel bad for not participating, I’d still have it burning in the back of my head that I was the only one not participating in the challenge or donating money.
In other words, I felt peer pressure.
Charity should never be about peer pressure
I don’t want to minimize the ALS campaign. It was a good thing. It did good things for a good cause. I’m absolutely in awe of the virality of the campaign and the amount of money it raised for an extremely worthy cause.
I only take issue because there are people are being made to feel like they have to give, and that’s not what charity is about. Charity comes from the heart. We give because something or someone moves us to do so. No one should ever have to be made to feel as if they have to give to one charity over another, or that they HAVE to participate in or donate to a viral campaign. Charities are subjective and we give because we’re inspired to give for whatever personal reasons we have, not because we have to do it to go along with the crowd.
I donated and I am happy to do so. ALS is a worthy cause. However, instead of asking others to participate in the challenge, I am going to challenge them to donate – either to ALS or another charity that is personal to them. I also know there are people who would like to give and feel bad because they don’t have the means with which to do so. To those people I would like to say that charity isn’t about money. It’s about giving selflessly of yourself. If you can’t donate, volunteer. Help a neighbor. Perform a random act of kindness. Smile at someone to someone who needs it.
Charity begins at home, but no one should ever be made to feel as if they HAVE to give.