I confess that I've gotten a little obsessed with the numbers.
That's not completely new for me. I am often aware of how many hours (and minutes!) are left in the school day, how many classes remain until summer comes, how many miles are yet to be traveled before the trip is finished -- that sort of thing. But lately, it's even worse. I hate to admit it, but the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus website is the first thing I check when I open my laptop.
So many numbers!
The number of cases. The number of deaths.
The number of countries that have been affected.
The number of seconds that a good hand-washing requires.
The number of days we've been social distancing.
The number of inches we should be separated from one another.
The number of cases that have been confirmed today
compared with the number of cases that were confirmed yesterday.
The number of cases we can expect tomorrow.
And, yes, I could go on and on!
I know that the numbers matter. But what dawns on me today is that each one of those numbers represents . . . a person.
I'm thinking that we would feel differently about this entire ordeal if we decided to use names instead of numbers. For example, what if case number 654,007 wasn't known by that number . . . but was, instead, known as Bob, the mail carrier? And what if case number 132,467 wasn't simply a number . . . but was, instead, dear Aunt Edna who was always so kind?
I realize that using the names would make the Johns Hopkins University website pretty unwieldy. I mean . . . how would it be possible to list all those names? Instead of a simple chart and fancy graphics, we would have to scroll through pages of names.
Which . . . wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Maybe that would help us understand the devastation that is unfolding right before our eyes. Maybe that would help us grasp the staggering loss of life that is happening each day.
There are so many ways to devalue life these days. Listen to the way we talk about this pandemic.
Our state has had ONLY thirteen deaths.
Well, she did have underlying health issues after all.
Sure it's sad that he died, but he was pretty old.
It's time to get back to work, even if that causes a few more losses.
We can consider it a victory is we lose only one hundred thousand lives.
It's easy to think that way when all we see are numbers.
But it's not so easy to think that way when we're dealing with names.
Here is a suggestion: as you find yourself almost hypnotized by all the numbers, don't forget that every one of those numbers represents a real, loved-by-God, created-by-God, valuable, precious . . . human being.
Don't ever forget that each number represents . . . a person.