Once again, it seems as if the WordPress gods have spoken and all the planets and stars have aligned for me to write about a specific topic.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking about writing about charities and what I do to help, but I haven’t done a proper post about it because anything I could say would simply sound as bragging and seeking attention. Sure, I’ve mentioned what I do in different posts, but normally not as the main focus.
Yesterday, I was just sent this link to a Buzzfeed article about the ice bucket challenge by a colleague. I found the videos very funny, but mostly thought that they represent us, humans and our relation to YouTube and the Internet perfectly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always up for a good laugh, but sometimes it’s a bit sad when you see that the crazy stuff, the falls, the easy laugh, are the ones being shared the most. Whenever there’s a truly inspirational video or article being shared, when they attempt to create a better place or to point out flaws in the way we function as a society, I feel extremely proud of the world we live in: #likeagirl (all the negative reinforcement girls start receiving from puberty, which goes unnoticed but has a negative effect on self-confidence), #everydaysexism (all the daily sexism women suffer, and how it goes unpunished, providing a platform to share and receive support), #iftheygunnedmedown (how the media outlets choose to show pictures depicting people as dangerous, when there might be many others portraying them as students, businessmen and women, or other non-threatening poses), to name a few.
I was really thinking I should write about charities and these charity challenges, because I don’t understand the ice bucket challenge. I think it’s great to raise awareness, but to me just raising the money is very effective, without having to nominate or do stuff like that. Anyway, on with the story.
These thoughts were still rumbling at the back of my mind when today at lunchtime, a bunch of people from work joined the table where I was sitting with a friend, and I started a conversation with one of them (another very good friend!). We were chatting, minding our business and he mentioned he would nominate me for the ice bucket challenge. I told him that’s fine, but that I wasn’t going to do it, so he replied if that was the case, then I would have to pay. To this, I replied that I wasn’t going to do that either, because, see? I’m not interested in the ice bucket challenge.
The overall look around the table was a bit like what’s wrong with this girl, maybe because I had spoken a bit louder than I had intended, or I don’t know. Truth is, I felt the need to reply. If you ask them, they will probably say they meant nothing by it, but when you’re the only person who has a different opinion from the rest of the group, it feels like they’re ganging up on you. What I said was that I don’t care about the challenge at all, to quote the Buzzfeed link above, just donate the money. In my opinion, this whole challenging others by nomination is good for publicity, but it’s even better for personal egos. There’s nothing challenging or brave about a bucket of ice cold water being poured over your head, it’s just a silly joke that gets attention, a schoolyard dare, if you like.
When I said that, I felt a little bit like I had said something terribly offensive and I got a few people replying and telling me I was wrong. Hey, maybe I am, but that’s how I think anyway. One person did agree with me on the just donating and stop with all the attention seeking (hi there, thanks!), but the rest were a bit more persistent. At some point, someone said something along the lines of: well then, donate the money, or something like that. Sort of like so what do you do to help? kind of question. Maybe it wasn’t asked in that light, but it felt like I needed to justify myself for saying something so atrocious as not wanting to take part in some Internet fad.
I mentioned briefly what I do to help, and I am extremely tempted to list all the stuff I’m involved in, and write it all right now, but instead, let me say something else. The whole idea of asking what I am doing to help, as if I have to justify my opinion is what I think is wrong with these challenges, mainly because what I do to help or not is my own story, and I will share it on my own terms. If I want to donate money, I will do so because I want to help, not because someone has forced me to choose to do something I consider stupid or pay up a certain amount of money. That’s actually extortion, really, and the worst kind: peer pressure.
The problem with the above exchange is that it reminded me of the reason why I never set foot in a karaoke bar, because I know that someone always thinks it’s funny to sign you up to sing and put you in the spotlight, even if you hate singing. The issue is that these people usually don’t back off when you say no, they normally use peer pressure to make you feel like you’re boring, or inadequate, or a chicken if you don’t go up and sing. I have many issues with that whole setting.
Funnily enough, when I got back to my desk, I got the daily prompt from The Daily Post at WordPress waiting for me in my inbox, Breaking The Ice.
The internet has recently been swept up by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Is there a cause — social, political, cultural, or other — you passionately believe in? Tell us how you got involved — or why you don’t get involved.
(Ben Huberman, The Daily Post)
I guess that was it. It was everything around me telling me to write this post!
I understand the ice bucket challenge was set with a very specific purpose, and that it’s also a bit of a joke, a light hearted challenge to raise awareness and funds. I completely understand that. Just leave me out of it.
However, I wonder… If we went to regions and countries where water is scarce and told them we are just filling up buckets with it, and pouring it over ourselves, what would the people living there think?
When I scroll down my Facebook feed, all I see is challenges and nominations. The #nomakeup selfie for breast cancer, the #cockinasock one (I don’t see this one much on Facebook though), which everyone is still unsure whether it was for real, or a satirical response to the selfie one; the ice bucket challenge… Now, everyone is nominating their friends to post during five days three different things to be grateful about. Five days? Shouldn’t we be grateful and happy about what we have everyday? Finding the positives and all that? I’ve been doing that for ages, with my stupid #silverlinings posts, but I’ve just been sharing the information with whoever wanted to read, I haven’t forced anyone to do the same. I’ve invited all of you to join me, but I haven’t named and shamed you so you would do it. Social accountability, or masked bullying?
I know I’m taking this to the extreme, but what I think is that these challenges do raise awareness, but they don’t fix the problem. It feels like we can’t donate or help just for the sake of it, but that we need a dare, or a silly action to help… And then we have Noah, who took his brother with him on a triathlon.
Personally, if someone says to me: I’ve never run in my life, but I’ve signed up for a half marathon because I want to raise funds for this, I would consider donating to them. I would more than happily donate to their cause, more so than to an ice bucket challenge, or a spoonful of cinnamon challenge (I’m not aware of any donations on this one, I think it’s just daring people). These challenges come from the neknomination trend, in which people were daring each other to do very stupid things, like drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol, in a Jackass type of way (or even Rude Tube and You’ve Been Framed). At least with the current challenges someone donates something to a charity (and I wonder, how many of these people actually donate money? How many do it only for the it was trendy, and I was there). What’s going to happen in a month, when there’s some other new trend sweeping the Internet? These charities are grateful for the money you donate, but they need support all year round, not just during one campaign.
It seems that at the moment, it’s trendy to do these challenges. That’s great, keep doing them, but please, be true to what they are, or if you’re not, or can’t see it, then keep me out of it.
I was glad to hear that the same guy that backed me up at lunchtime (did I say thanks yet?) also commented on my behalf afterwards (thank you again, a little bird told me!) by saying something like I’m always volunteering and doing charity stuff, so it was OK if I had my negative opinion about the challenge, that it didn’t make me a horrible person (I’m paraphrasing), which I’m not. I think… I hope!
The Internet is an amazing creation, and it’s making personal relationships move at an incredibly fast pace. The power of social media is astounding and news and ideas are shared by the second, becoming trending topics and in some instances changing the world. Let me repeat myself, I always get a great sense of pride when I see fellow human beings getting together to fight for a good cause, but when I see people just one-upping each other, well, leave me out of it. So far, I had kept my opinions to myself, until I was brought right in the middle of it. Once I finish this post, unless someone wants to discuss, I will go back to keeping my opinions to myself.
It seems the group at the table are actually doing the challenge tomorrow at lunchtime, so I guess, as my friend Chris said, it was really bad timing as they were probably all excited about it, and there I was raining on their parade. As I said to them, I was sorry if I had antagonised the whole table, that hadn’t been my intention.
One of the guys said he’s going to nominate me when he does his challenge, and I told him to go ahead and do it. I still don’t want any part in it. Sadly, he will waste a nomination, as someone else might actually want to participate and donate and do the challenge and all that.
Since I don’t want to be the boring, the party pooper and all that, I would like to propose new challenges.
- Empty your wardrobe at the end of every season and donate any items you haven’t worn in the past few months/seasons. Bring them to a charity shop and give them all for free so they can sell them. Even those items that still have a price tag on it, and you love, but realistically, if you haven’t worn them yet, you’re probably never going to.
- Join a charity run and fundraise for a cause. When people fail to donate the required amount needed to sign up, just donate the money yourself… on top of the registration fee.
- On top of joining a charity run, participate in a bake sale, not only by baking, but also by donating money. Extra points if you just put money in the jar, but don’t eat anything because you don’t like sweet food.
- If on top of those, there’s any other activity going on (raffle, selling items, personal challenges), donate money as well, resulting in you being pretty much broke by the end of the month.
- Find something that scares you terribly, and challenge YOURSELF to do it. Fundraise for a good cause.
- Volunteer at charity events on a regular basis, just because. Go and spend 5 hours standing up in a tent helping people register on race day and answering endless questions about when the time results are going to be posted. Or just making sure nike bike riders are wearing the required lights and are safe, by standing at the gantries and handing out route maps.
- Do a charity event with work, and then feel so moved by the work the charity does that you decide to stay later and join them, so you can do volunteering work with them on a regular basis, helping families with children in a hospital.
- Get involved on the charity month at work, helping organise and finding different opportunities for your colleagues to volunteer in.
- Sign up to volunteering activities/newsletters in your community, so you are aware of what’s coming up next and can make plans to help.
I have done, or am still doing, all of them, except the challenging myself to do something that scares me. A group of friends did abseiling on a hospital building to raise funds a while ago, and I thought it was a brilliant idea because not only they grew as a person and they overcame their fears (a bit) but also helped others.
In theory, I could now nominate a bunch of people to do any of the above, or they would have to pay an amount of money to a charity… but I think that if people really want to help, they will do it regardless of challenges or anything like that. I don’t have that much money to give, but I have plenty of time, and for this reason, I volunteer instead.
If you want to donate to any of the causes listed above, you can do so by helping out at any of these charities I regularly help in one way or another:
The best part? You can do so without the need to nominate or being nominated and I won’t judge you whether you choose to or not.
If you would like to share your story, or your thoughts on any of the above, or how you normally help in your community, please let me know! I’m interested in knowing about other ways to help out!