Are You Up for the #Icebucketchallenge?

Everyone seems to be drenching themselves with buckets of icy cold water these days.

The Internet is awash (pun intended) with such videos—just search #icebucketchallenge. If you have not yet caught on the action, this viral Internet sensation is known as the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. Individuals including actors, singers, sports personalities, business tycoons and even politicians pour a bucket of ice water over their heads, when they are “challenged” by another person, all in a bid to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.

The #icebucketchallenge is simple:

  • If you have been nominated by someone, douse yourself with a bucket of icy cold water within 24 hours, or donate money to the ALS Association (many end up doing both).
  • Nominate three other people to do the same after that.

While some have called it a “waste of water” and an example of “slactivism” (where people can feel good about themselves without actually needing to put in much effort or involvement), it’s hard to dispute the effectiveness of the campaign. Just over a few days, awareness and donations towards ALS have surged to record highs. I myself had no inkling about this disease prior to this online craze and now, I’m writing about it.

But just like every other craze, this #icebucketchallenge fad will fade away. Soon, many, including those who participated in the challenge and gave large sums to the cause will forget all about this debilitating disease that plagues the lives of two out of 100,000 people. All of us will return to the grind of our daily lives until the next meaningful cause-driven fad sweeps us off our feet and prompts an outpouring from our pockets.

I’m not trying to pour cold water on this campaign. In fact, this is one of those few Internet crazes that I actually find brilliant and support. It’s also a perfect example that we need such “splashes of cold water” every so often to remind ourselves, or even educate ourselves, about what’s important in life.

Reminders, in and of themselves, are not new. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were made to offer up sacrifices annually as reminders of their sins (Hebrews 10:3). These were solemn and graphic reminders of the terrible cost of sin. Watching the sacrificial process would likely have invoked feelings of remorse, self-reproach, and guilt in the individual, with some perhaps resolving in their hearts to turn away from their sins and starting afresh. It’s the effect such “high” moments have on us, especially when there are many others resolving to do the same thing too. It’s no wonder then, how the #icebucketchallenge took the world by storm and made donating to ALS a very cool (pun intended again) thing to do.

But let us not kid ourselves that a simple donation, or one-time resolve in our hearts are good enough. There needs to be follow up, an active effort on our part to keep doing what we’ve committed to do, regardless of whether others are doing so.

In the book of James, we read about people who just hear the word versus those who act on it—the difference is forgetfulness. James 1:23-25 says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

So, to all of us forgetful people, let’s remind ourselves, as often as we need, to act on what the Bible says, for the sake of God’s glory. But beyond the act of just reminding ourselves, let’s focus on the follow up action after that to make such reminders truly effective. Whether it’s to stop sinning or start doing what we’ve put off for far too long (like giving towards useful causes like ALS), let’s do them, whether or not they are cool to do.

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