Saturday, August 23, 2014

Walking A Mile

There's a saying that says to truly understand what a person is dealing with you would need to walk a mile in their shoes. There's been a lot of attention lately to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It has created a phenomenal amount of awareness, as well as funds for research. From what I understand the icy cold water is supposed to simulate the sensation of the affected nerves that an ALS patient feels. I've seen the Facebook videos and received my challenge yesterday. Like any challenge though, I had a choice to make. I chose to make the donation; not because I was afraid of appearing vulnerable on camera or afraid of a little cold water. No, my choice was for personal reasons. I completely respect each person who has accepted the challenge, made a donation to the cause, or obtained a greater understanding of a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain. My decision comes from a different place.

Have you ever asked the abused spouse or the child of an alcoholic parent how they would feel if you were to apply some fake bruises and go out in public so that people could judge you? Would it help you to relate? Would a cancer patient feel any better if you were to shave your head as a sign of support? My son did that once. He was at college and the captain of a Relay For Life team. I appreciated that he wanted to feel connected and wanted to show his support to me while I was going through my chemo treatments, so as a fundraiser he let the college students in his dorm shave his head. BUT he never asked me how 'I' felt about it. When I saw him I literally broke down and cried. I understood his need to feel connected but all I could see was a mirror image of myself and I saw him as being ill and damaged. It broke my heart. Fortunately his hair grew back much faster than mine. We talked about it and I made him promise that he would never intentionally do that again.

I will ALWAYS support various causes and for a lot of reasons; because I know someone dealing with the issue, or I see the awareness and knowledge being created, or I see breakthroughs being made. Sure, I haven't won the lotto (yet) and I can't support every cause, but I will continue to make donations when I can, walk in fundraisers, and learn when I can.

Walking a mile in someone's shoes isn't always a reality, sometimes you can learn just as much by opening your mind and your heart. To all those who took the Ice Bucket Challenge - I applaud you! To all those who donated instead - I applaud you as well! To all those who endure or care for someone who has ALS or diabetes or cancer or heart disease or suffers from abuse or weight issues or depression, etc. - I applaud ALL of your efforts and your determination. 

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