A Little Bit on Numbers

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Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

*Trigger warning* – Mentions sexual assault

I remember the first time the connection between the numbers in my text books fused with the actual people generating the data in my brain.

I was a senior in college waiting for my friend from Sociology class to come over to work on a group project. She was late. Her text buzzed in, letting me know she wasn’t going to be able to come over. She’d fill me in when we could be together again, in person.

I don’t remember when she showed up at my door – maybe later in the evening – maybe a few days later. I do remember the tears in her eyes, and the way the gray carpet blurred when she told me why she missed our meeting.

I remember walking to campus and holding her hand. I remember sitting in straight-backed oak chairs with the kind professor who listened, and gasped as she accepted my friend’s truth. My friend was raped the weekend before.

Our connection doesn’t go much past this recollection. I wish I could say I did more. I didn’t follow up after graduation. I held a small portion of the truth for her and created space.  I know her experience became a police report and she became a number in a file of sexual assaults on young females in 2011.

This is not the place to blame, or shame, or dissect cause and effect. I share this story because it helped me realize for every single model and number on a page exists a real human.

I am not comparing number of incidents of rape to the numbers of people being infected by the coronavirus. Rather, this is a reminder to think of the reports and predictions informing decisions during this pandemic. I’m not an expert and I know we all are doing the best we can.

But please remember, for each number, statistic, risk factor and odds exists these:

Loved ones.

College prospects.

Best friends.

Scared teachers.

Caregivers.

Cancer patients.

Pro-athletes.

Grandparents.

Elementary-school children.

These numbers will be in text books.

So, please, the next time you spout numbers or note previous studies, or look at models and statistics predicting human behavior and future loss of life, remember this: for each number exists a human.

For each number exists a story.

For each number exists a future.

We’ve got to fuse connections between our individual choices and the patterns our children will study in print or whatever futuristic ink they’ll read.

You are a number.

We can’t escape risk and we can choose love. We can choose to protect and pivot and wait. We can choose to care and give money and wear masks.

I tire of filling my glass half full. It’s not always rosy. Stop spouting statistics as excuses. What if those numbers were your people? Maybe they already are.

Can we be more compassionate to all of us, living through history now?

You get to use your number well.  I hope that’s a beautiful thing.

 

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