At first it didn't sit right. Today, I am warmed and awestruck. That's been the been the emotional arc watching the Ice Bucket Challenge for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Its scale and speed are staggering—$94 million raised (and climbing) for the ALS Association in just one month. And, with many smaller private charities and personal patient fundraising sites also experiencing major surges, this is just a fraction of the total draw. To put this in perspective, the ALS Association collected $6 million in unrestricted cash for all of last year.
Cynics gripe at missing genuine awareness, "slacktivism," one-upmanship, and misallocation of funds, while dredging up moral relativism. Not only do they completely miss the point, they close their eyes to heaps of philanthropy, awareness, and compassion right in front of them. You can see it in the tearful gratitude from ALS patients and their families. You can see it in the bottom line. And, whether or not it's a summer of 2014 fad or something more sustained and permanent, you can see it in a new universe of potential for dozens of currently underfunded industry and academic genetic and therapeutic research projects around the world.
The truth is that the Ice Bucket Challenge is the only successful ALS advocacy ever, and, while it can't and shouldn't be replicated for other causes, we have much to learn and innovate from its good sides. It's time to move beyond cynicism and fear around peoples' motivations, whatever shape or path they take, and embrace the oceans of untapped goodness all around us.