We Are All In This Together

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.

This ALS ice-bucket fundraiser seems to be a really touchy topic. I believe it is perfectly fine for people to critique a fundraiser and equally fine for people to support it. It is also fair for people who have professional expertise in fundraising to weigh in on the matter. And it is fair for people who have no clean drinking water (Detroit) to point out that concern. It doesn’t mean anyone hates people living with ALS. 

I”m disappointed in people who say I’m a “hater” because I critique a fundraiser. That’s such narrow-minded and hurtful thinking, implying that we must blindly buy in and celebrate anything remotely tied to a good cause. And I know first hand that there are many good causes that disguise not-so-good things. Believe me, as a social worker who has worked on many, many events. More importantly, I know that we should be free to make our own determinations.

Name-calling among adults is simply unnecessary and undermines your credibility, no matter where you stand. I think adults who stand up for people living with a terminal disease can do better than dropping little slurs. You can disagree, but disagreeing with name-calling is a bullying tactic intended to silence people. Rudeness doesn’t raise awareness of anything except the fact that you are a bully. So just stop. Please. Do your fundraising and accept that no cause is going to draw the same level of enthusiasm and investment from everyone. And remember that when you do something public, it does draw some negative feedback. Why is that a shocker? Because we want to tell people how to feel?

My personal views on ALS are not relevant, but I am confident that my friends for whom this is very personal know that they have my support and that I will be there for them long after the videos cease popping up on Facebook. I don’t hate anyone because I engage in critical thinking or have different priorities. I find it disappointing that people feel like issues around water access in Detroit or environmental concerns related to droughts aren’t worth taking into consideration – even if you consider them less important, they are still worth thinking about. Who are any of us to say that one cause is *the* priority for everyone else?

I’m not saying if I’d participate or not, but I do believe I have the right to give it a second-thought. And I think professional fundraisers should weigh in on social phenoms to give us perspective and a measuring stick. Remember Hurricane Katrina drawing a rash of critiques about how non-profits use donations for administrative costs? That was a good thing. I notice a lot of people asking these types of questions these days. That wouldn’t have happened if someone didn’t stand up and say ‘hey …’

When I pick a cause to support, it doesn’t mean I think less of other causes. I deplore the turn of American society to charity over safety nets. I find it abhorrent that we so often crowdfund funerals. And I find it even more abhorrent that it does become a competition – that when 27 year old Susan Smith, a woman of color,  was murdered in McKeesport, there was nothing – no community fundraisers, no concerts, no tee shirts, nothing for her five children left behind. And when a 14 year old white girl in that same town was killed in a terrible vehicle accident, tens of thousands of dollars was raised from businesses, schools and more. Same town, different race.

That’s what I abhor – when unfairness trickles into mourning and grief. That’s why I think people have the right to criticize a fundraiser without being labeled critics of the beneficiaries. Often the critics are simply speaking up for the most vulnerable and reminding us that charity is not going to save the world. That’s the message we want to reject – that having fun is not enough. That changing the world requires changing ourselves. That it usually involves NOT feeling good.

 “People can get upset when you say some causes are more effective than others. That’s not true, because it’s as tragic for someone to die of ALS as it is for someone to die of malaria. But wanting to respect and honor a particular tragedy is different from trying to help as many people as you can.”

Now as for me, I have a lot of causes that I care about. Some are personal – such as LGBTQ rights or mental health issues and disability issues. Some are because of my professional experience – child welfare, homelessness. And some resonate with my sense of outrage – like the Detroit water situation. But I care about many things, I care about the big picture. I care about how my issues are your issues and the issues of that guy over there.

Just today I put myself through all sorts of contortions to schedule a fundraiser for Cathy’s Closet that doesn’t interfere with other small, LGBTQ fundraisers in this region. It was a convoluted process that might come back to haunt me, but I feel like it is necessary to be ALL IN this together.

So you can label me a hater if it makes you happy. I’d rather we find areas to work together on causes we both support.



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  • I understand, as my thoughts are mixed. I am glad they are making money for suffering people. Some people need reminders to give, so if this helps them, fine. Where I work the attys are doing it and putting it up on the firm internet. Some are being “shamed” to join in, and others are mad etc. Others are fine. It is meant to be voluntary so I don’t like the spirit some are using.

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