There are two stories all over my social media newsfeed right now: people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads and a photograph someone took at a Publix supermarket in Florida.
You're probably familiar with both. The folks dumping buckets of ice water on their heads are doing the Ice Bucket challenge -- a viral fundraising campaign designed to raise awareness for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). It consists of being challenged by friends to either give a $100 donation to ALS research or dump a bucket of ice water over your head and only give $10. As of today, the ALS Association has reported raising more than $100 million in the past month. According to Forbes.com, that's 3,500 percent more than what was raised by the association over the same period last year.
Using social media to raise awareness for such a devastating and often overlooked disease was genius. I don't know who thought to pour ice water over their head first, but I'm sure they have a promising future in consulting.
Beyond this, there's a viral photo making the rounds on Facebook that I think is also worth discussing. While shopping at Publix in Ormand Beach, Fla., Keith Kiel observed employee Gage Boucher help an elderly shopper tie his shoes. Kiel was so touched by this act of kindness, he snapped a photo and shared it on his Facebook wall. The photo was then "liked" and shared thousands of times. Boucher was even interviewed on television. An act never meant to be seen inspired thousands.
Mulling over these actions in my mind, I thought of how these can both lend us all some inspiration. First, I hope that we challenge each other to continue to do good. It makes me nervous to see charitable giving described as "trending," because the world desperately needs it to be a permanent reality. Buckets of ice water can fade into memory -- especially as the fall and cooler temperatures arrive -- but my hope is that this generosity continues and more good causes receive the boost that ALS awareness did last month.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul encourages us to "love one another with a mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:10). There are so many more ways we can continue to honor those among us who are in need, and the Ice Bucket Challenge has shown us that when many people do a little, it makes a huge difference.
Second, I hope we're inspired to do good no matter who's watching. While I've been amused to see the many creative videos my friends are sharing, I keep going back to the photo of Gage Boucher in Publix and hope that this is the attitude that we can all cultivate -- an attitude of charity no matter who sees us, when it's least expected.
I love to see this happen in the lives of the students who show up to volunteer at a food pantry or construction project with their friends at youth group. I've seen many a teen arrive at a service project under duress -- because they needed the community service hours or their friends basically dragged them along. Some begrudge the whole experience, shoving their paperwork and a pen for me to sign off on their hours as soon as they've finished their required time. However, many will return voluntarily the next time they're invited, realizing that the satisfaction of helping others is its own reward.
Charity doesn't need a hashtag -- it just needs people like us, looking for the chance to give of ourselves. Don't wait for the next trending topic to ask where you're needed.
Follow columnist Alison Griswold at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.