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Awareness Campaigns: Make ‘Em Count

on August 18, 2014

I have not personally experienced any horrible disease. I do have a great uncle who died in a humiliating fashion of Alzheimers and a great aunt who heartbreakingly cared for him and then was herself cruelly taken down by ALS. I also have a mother who shows up on the “In Memory Of” tags in the breast cancer walks. So I have seen them. I also consider myself one of those social media mini-experts because I love to read the little links that come along with the recent trends on Twitter and Facebook. You know the ones I’m talking about: the awareness trends and subsequent outrage for those not jumping on the bandwagon.

The Trend
The one I’ve been reading about recently is the ALS ice bucket challenge. In order to raise awareness for a truly awful disease in which the body basically shuts down slowly and surely until it just stops while the brain stays fully intact and completely aware of all the increasing humiliating inabilities, a person is challenged to pour a bucket of ice water on his head OR donate $100 to ALS research.

The Power Of Words
I love words. Love the way they can make you laugh or cry. Love the way they can heal and mend. But, with great power comes great responsibility. Words can cut down, misrepresent, attack and hurt. The food for thought in this challenge is the use of “and” versus “or.” Why should this challenge be an invitation to choose to not donate to a charity? I’m sure many more people know now about ALS than did before because of this (at least those who will take that extra time to look it up), and I don’t disagree with that on any level. With the many friends I have seen take on this challenge and where I know their hearts to be, I am also certain they mean nothing negative in any way by doing it. I am also certain that whoever began the challenge did not intend anything but to help ALS research get the recognition it so desperately needs. However, when an opportunity is presented to raise awareness or give money, it offers a way to “give” where it is cold and wet but not where it might keep you from having one more specialty coffee.

Details, Details
In the many adorable, funny, creative and fun posts I have seen of my friends and many other people I respect, I have only seen an actual link to the place to donate to ALS research one time. Maybe it’s because everyone naturally assumes that link would be a few clicks away with the power of Google, but I also wonder, given the very ADD nature of our internet clicking, if people are truly going to make those few extra clicks. I hope I’m wrong. And I know that, on some level, I am because donations to ALS research are up. So, the campaign is doing good things. That makes me very happy.

Put Away Your Pitchforks
I am in no way opposed to these horrible diseases being brought to the public’s attention. My question is when is awareness a catalyst for change, and at what point does it become a really adorable or fashionable way to show how supportive you are of a worthwhile cause with very little long-lasting effect on your own life? Are we putting this up so “they” will help more? Are we going to be aware until we change into warm, dry clothes? Will we still remember those people who are literally shutting down when we use our fully functioning bodies to move on to our next tasks? Now, I realize we cannot live every moment of our lives focusing on what troubles others are going through, but I do wonder how easily we put away our awareness when it is not attached to a cute video posted on Facebook. I wonder what it would look like if we all became the “they” we want to step up.

What If . . .
Every challenge and awareness campaign also included a link to donate to a reputable organization that truly needs the finances to continue making advances to fight whatever horrible disease is being brought to the forefront? What if that link showed ways to actively get involved in helping? What if everyone who took such a challenge also not only did so but also donated a little bit? I’m sure not everyone can afford the generosity that some have showed by donating large sums, but with as many of these posts as I’ve seen and the multiple more I’m sure are out there, every little bit would add up pretty darned quickly.

The Get ‘Er Done Challenge
So, my challenge would be to take a moment when you see a campaign for awareness, read about it or talk to someone you know is personally battling whatever horrible thing it is, and if it truly tugs at your heart, do something tangible in addition to making a video and sharing it on your Facebook page. Give some money. See where you can volunteer. Offer up yourself to one of those families and ask where you can help. Give anonymously to a family being affected by some horrible disease by sending gift cards for gas or groceries. Pour out the bucket AND do something. Put your money where your ice bucket is.

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