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Regarding the Ice Bucket Challenge

Well, it finally happened. I was nominated this week by a friend to take on the Ice Bucket Challenge.

In truth, I was hoping I wouldn’t be embroiled in this phenomenon because my participation would mean having to write a post like this (it originally appeared on my personal Facebook). Even if you’re only familiar with me through the A Knight Adrift project, I would hope it’s clear I am someone who believes in raising support and awareness for the plight of individuals suffering awful and debilitating circumstances. In that goal, I think the ALS’s challenge has succeeded admirably and I’m thrilled to see social media used for such a positive effort, regardless of how silly the challenge itself might be.

But I look at social movements like this primarily as an opportunity to simply help our fellow humans however we can, and though ALS research is a deserving mission, for me personally there are causes I believe more strongly in; causes that have, in my opinion, greater potential for the immediate, decisive, critical improvement of those suffering individuals’ lives. One of those causes is Doctors Without Borders.

I know my declining the challenge in this manner would be disappointing to some hoping to see me douse myself in ice – and I brainstormed a ton of ideas, most of them involving my cat somehow chucking cubes at me – but in lieu of a donation to ALS research, I will be foregoing the Ice Bucket Challenge and donating instead to Doctors Without Borders. I consider them to be one of the most laudable and worthy non-profit organizations operating around the world today, as do several charity-reviewing organizations. Their slogan is “Medical aid where it is needed most. Independent. Neutral. Impartial.”

I believe in their work. I think the organization's nothing short of a collection of heroes, some of whom are dying right now to help stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa. If you’re interested, I encourage you to check out their website to learn how you can help.

"That's great," you might be thinking. "But why are you sharing this?" Great question. I'll do my best.

I know everyone has a different opinion about the worth of monetary donations to charity, and I completely understand the debate. Everyone has a cause. Everyone has a problem. How do you know which are honest? Responsible? Worthy? Accountability and efficacy are always suspect with hard-earned cash on the table. These are all valid concerns and I can’t even tell you how many articles I’ve read in the last month tackling the issue from every imaginable angle. I'd donated to causes in the past, but with the popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge, it seemed a good time to reconsider the questions above. I imagine many have done the same in recent weeks.

To be clear: I believe ALS research is just as worthy a cause as international medical aid to the impoverished and powerless. Real people suffer daily from ALS and it is, in my humble opinion, a horrifying disease. It’s my personal goal to one day support such causes with more dedication and clout than I can manage now. I’m happy with the ALS movement’s success least of all for the demonstration of how social media can productively and positively exercise its power for good.

It should be our collective goal to wipe out the evils that plague the most unfortunate among us. But right now, I won’t be pouring ice on my head to do so. Whether anyone does is entirely at that individual's discretion and I do not begrudge their decision, but my point is this: Someone somewhere needs help. It shouldn't take a social media phenomenon before we give it to them.

I guess I’m being a bit of a wet blanket here. I apologize for that. I wish I could temper this with a trying-so-hard-and-failing-it's-funny kind of joke, but the stream of awful occurrences in the world today is steady and endless.

With any luck, I’m not coming off as an arrogant, righteous contrarian and if you’ve made it this far without seriously reconsidering your opinion of me (I wouldn’t blame you), I thank you for your understanding. If this post can inspire someone to strike out on their own charitable mission without documented proof of icy embarrassment, I'll consider these words well spent.

My bellyaching aside, some of the videos have been tremendously amusing. Benedict Cumberbatch's Ice Bucket Challenge comes highly recommended.

You’re supposed to nominate three more people for this, so after careful consideration, I selected three friends to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, or to donate to and spread the word about a cause near to their hearts. It’s an informal challenge, but I encourage you, dear reader, to consider the causes most important to you and with the Ice Bucket Challenge as the spark of motivation, consider donating time, money, or a social media phenomenon (good luck on that count!) to those efforts, whatever they may be.

As Carl Sagan said: “For creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Be a knight. Be well.