Is there a coincidence that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has played out in such a dramatically successful way – literally all over the world – at the same time we have been victimized by some of the worst news stories in recent memory? Piling up on us so rapidly, it seems surreal.
Beheadings! Good Lord…the thought. And threats to our world, right here, in the USA. Threats this time that aren’t about bombing buildings; threats that look quite different indeed. Evil does walk on this earth. And it tapes itself and goes on YouTube for the world to see. And – we – watch.
Ebola! Spreading wildly and uncontrollably – watch the maps, watch the countries turn “red” with notations of new outbreaks. No known cure. A doctor and a nurse in full white and plastic protective bubbles. Will they live or will they die? And when – but not if – will it be that someone flies to our shores on a jet plane and infects thousands. And they will. And will this potential drug work? And if it doesn’t, will this be the plague to wipe out millions? And so on….
Hands Up! Don’t Shoot! Almost in the dead center of our country – Ferguson, Missouri. A young black man, perhaps guilty of shoplifting a few cigars, maybe shoving someone, or having a scuffle with law enforcement, maybe even a little high, gets shot dead with 6 bullets riddling his right side, starting with 2 in his head, and down his right arm that witnesses have said was raised in the universal “Hands UP! Don’t Shoot” symbol. And his body lays in the street for 4 hours; with his parents watching the flesh of their flesh, and the blood of their blood oozing into the hot pavement. No white sheet gently shrouding him. No priest saying words and drawing crosses. He just lay there, getting stiff and cold, in the heat. And the world in Ferguson ignited like a match carelessly flicked onto anxious, hot embers of a community who has had enough – a world which now sings back “We are Michael Brown”. And how did we get here? I think back to the race riots in the 70s, when white girls were afraid to walk on the very white East Side of Providence. When flames of anger made it unsafe. When young black people tossed rocks out of cars, and more, at sheer desperation of their lot. Of their life. Not a lot of guns and knives back then…but rioting and fighting and fear were weapons enough.
Israel and Gaza in their non-holy war, blowing each other up in the sacrilegious name of religion. Picking up pieces of dead children, men, women for quick funerals, ‘as required’. Then calling for “ceasefire” so all can cleanup. But at halftime, someone launches a rocket, and we’re off again. Like some insane WWW fighting match, but there are, and will be, no winners here.
Putan-esque horrors in Russia & the Ukraine, reminding me of the ominous music in elementary school, when we would watch those videos, in our dark classroom, of the Red Dragon and the spread of Communism, surely “coming to a country near you”.
Deport them! Illegal children rushing over barbed wire and fences, wading through streams, and now just walking in and over to law enforcement saying – here we are, arrest us, give us a court date, and my God, we’re home free…we’re home now, we’re in A-me-ri-ca. And they disappear into our states on hot buses and trains. Wide eyed they go to the light of their cold and broken Hallelujah.
We’ve pretty much lost sight of the children. And the Ukraine is bubbling in our minds. Israel & Gaza, for this week, nowhere near the front page. What has captured us in this time of such woe? What has given us joy at this hot and humid summer’s end?
The Ice Bucket Challenge. A moment in time. A silly, personal action that we share with millions on social media, inspiring laughs all across computer tops, iPads and iPhones – in a nanosecond. The Ice Bucket Challenge existed before this summer. It has popped up every once in awhile for different charities and causes. But this year. This year was so different. An obscure disease – actually called an orphan disease – afflicting “only” 30,000 people in these United States. Maybe the small numbers reminded us of how we feel against the global times we live in and the hopelessness we carry around with us to effect any change at all. In a time when we surely feel like pulling up our drawbridges and watching out very carefully for just our own. A time when for some inexplicable reason purchasing four cans of Dinty Moore beef stew to put in the basement next to the two cases of Poland Spring water seemed, well, proactionary.
But there was this thing you could do. This cold bucket of ice thing. And you could dump it over your own head. Shock your own self. And take a video of it. And share it. On YouTube. And all the rest. And call out your friends – and your not so friendly friends – hey, I’m making you do this, too. Ha! And then go to your computer and donate money – lots of money – to this writing, over $70 million dollars, nationally. Approaching $1 million in the state of Massachusetts, alone. And it’s spreading around the world. Israel, Gaza, the Ukraine, probably not.
And for two or three weeks the little worlds we live in threw buckets of ice water over our heads. A personal moment of control over this bombardment of grief in our world. Have you done it? Even on a really hot day, it jolts you. It’s as if the memories of a beheading, of a boy lying in the street oozing blood into the pavement, of dirty, homeless children flooding this land of made-up dreams, of rockets red glare, red dragons, and bleeding eyes, were put out of our minds and our hearts for just a little while. We took control over our mental anguish and turned it positive, and joyful, and helpful, and hopeful.
A bucket of ice. Who knew? Who knows the power it will have on inroads to a cure? But in each of our small worlds, magnified on the screen of social media, we took control, we chose to laugh, we chose to do something rather dramatic, rather beautiful – we chose to be the essence of who we can be, each one of us. We chose peace for a moment or two, or maybe because we shared it in those nanoseconds, the peace lasted a little longer. And in our gigging, shivering, wetness, how beautiful are we!
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: Rev:19:6