When Issues Become People

I remember when homelessness became real people to me. People I had served dinner to, sat beside, talked with, and gotten to know. People I started thinking about in the grocery store and started buying water bottles for one hellishly hot summer.

I remember when HIV and AIDS became real people to me. People I knew the names of. People I had hugged and loved on.

I remember when the orphan crisis became real people to me. Actual kids I had played tag with, given piggy back rides to, and tickled. Kids I knew the names of. Kids who lived all over the world. Kids whose stories could make you sick.

I remember when cancer became real people to me. A grandfather, a mom, a really good friend.

I remember when poverty became real people to me. Kids I would go to the ends of the earth fighting for, crying in my office because their electricity had been turned off or their food stamps had run out and they hadn’t eaten all weekend.

I remember when access to clean water became real people to me. A little boy who I love, sitting in my lap day after day guzzling the water I would bring him because he was so dehydrated. He was thirsty on a level I will never in my lifetime understand.

I remember when homosexuality became real people to me. People I knew and people I really cared about.

When issues become people everything changes. It gets personal. It gets real. 

For the last several weeks my Facebook news feed has been flooded with people posting videos of the ALS ice bucket challenge. Every time I turn on the news people are talking about it. One quick Google search and you will find all kinds of things. I don’t know anyone personally who has been affected by this disease. For that very reason, I think it was easy at first for me to be skeptical [read: negative] of the ice bucket challenge. Are people really donating? How is this helping ALS? All hell has broken loose in Ferguson and we’re dumping water on our heads? Let’s not even talk about what’s happening with ISIS. It’s so wasteful. There are people who don’t have water to drink and we’re pouring water on ourselves for fun… I just cannot. How is this DOING anything? This is just trendy. This is clogging up my news feed. I will not do this if I get challenged.

And then I watched this video [You can click on the picture and it will take you to the video. The beginning is silly and there is a cuss word. Watch the whole thing or go to 1:40.]:

indexAnd then I watched this one:


And all of a sudden ALS had a face. I started seeing people post things on Facebook who had lost loved ones to ALS. They talked about how they teared up every time they watched an ice bucket challenge. They talked about how it meant the world to them that people were dumping water on their heads and donating money all in the name of a disease that killed people they loved in a really crappy way. They posted things about how they were participating in the ice bucket challenge in honor of a person they loved who ALS had taken from them.They said how encouraging this campaign has been to them.

And just like that ALS became real people to me… a brother, a dad, a husband, a friend, a wife, a mom, a grandmother. All of a sudden the ice bucket challenge became less about a trendy social media campaign, wasting water and questioning whether or not people were donating; and more about solidarity, hope and life.

When issues become people everything changes. It gets personal. It gets real.

So carry on with the ice bucket challenge. Carry on with the donating. Carry on with the awareness. Because ALS is real people.


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