WHAT A WEEK. After the past few days, this phrase is perhaps more fitting than ever:

Needless to say, there are a lot of awful, heartbreaking things going on in the world right now.

But over the last two weeks, something else has been happening as well. Something that's distracted us, made us laugh, given us hope, and, in the end, made a HUGE and unexpected impact.

What is it? The ice bucket challenge. A quick description:

The challenge, if you haven’t seen it already, features people dumping cold water on their heads and then nominating friends to do the same. If nominees don’t accept the challenge, they’re asked to donate money instead.

Started as an attempt to raise awareness and money for the ALS Association, a nonprofit dedicated to finding a cure for ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease), the ice bucket challenge has exceeded its highest expectations - and has brought together a diverse group of people.

Microsoft Founder Bill Gates:

Professional Hockey Player Paul Bissonnette:

Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben and his Command Staff:

The Cast of “Grey's Anatomy”:

The New York Jets Football Team:

“The Voice” Stars Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Carson Daly:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

The Harlem Globetrotters:

As entertaining as this welcome distraction has been, the best part is that it worked. Big time.

Between July 29 and August 15, the ALS Association received $9.5 million in donations from more than 184,000 people. (During the same time period last year, the organization collected $1.6 million.) And the money continues to pour in.

“We’re heartened that the momentum of this incredible visibility continues,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We are so thankful for the generous outpouring of donations and people’s interest in learning more about ALS.”

The ALS Association plans to use the money to assist in the care for people coping with the condition, as well as to research treatments and, ultimately, a cure for ALS.

Here's what we can all take from this: When people stop focusing on their differences and come together for something they all care about, big things happen.

In other words, when we start focusing on the things we have in common and the goals we all share - whether it is to find a cure for ALS or create jobs or improve healthcare for our veterans - we are much more likely to meet those goals.

We just have to be willing to set aside our greed and our pettiness and our resentment long enough to do so.