Having got caught early on last spring in one of those “Take the Plunge” challenges, I’ve been lying low lately, hoping to avoid the “Ice Bucket Challenge” or whatever it’s called. I thought I had made it, frankly. The likely culprits, the men at church and my small circle of friends in this area, had mysteriously spared me. I was beginning to feel like it was safe to go out again and had even stopped wearing my Groucho Marx disguise to the grocery store.
Then, through the long arm of the internet, my old friend from western Kentucky, Don Riley, reached out and touched me yesterday. Standing there at the edge of his swimming pool in the scorching heat and soaring humidity of the upper South, he shattered my happy little shell of obscurity and drew me into this beneficent madness.
And so, it appears that sometime in the next several hours I will join the hundreds of thousands of other lunatics who just can’t resist doing some ridiculous decent thing for thousands of other human beings that they don’t know. Mine will be a bit less anonymous, though, a bit more personal.
I’ll be thinking of Ben Jackson, my next-door neighbor in Cynthiana, Kentucky. I’ll be remembering how ALS stripped him of every shred of dignity, how it robbed him of his personality, his ability to communicate. I’ll remember the long transformation that changed one of the most humorous, pleasant and witty men I’ve ever known into a helpless mute. I’ll remember, too, how some glimmer of that humor still sparked in his eyes the day before he died. I’ll remember how I never heard him complain throughout his yearlong decline and the warmth and openness of his heart and smile.
So, Don Riley, friend I have loved for over thirty years, I’m taking your challenge, buddy. You knew I wouldn’t be able to dodge a dare, didn’t you? It’s certainly not what we typically discuss in our Bible studies when we come across that scripture that tells us to “spur one another on to good works.” But, I guess it fits… and I know that Ben Jackson would fall off his porch swing laughing if he could see this!