The dots on the curve, and what they can teach us

I spent a chunk of Thursday sobbing about a woman I’ve never met.

I didn’t know her name before I learned about her death and barely knew her daughter.

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Before that moment she was just another dot on the curve, a nameless statistic on a chart as we march toward a grim peak officials says is coming in the coronavirus pandemic.

Until the drop, we will climb up the roller coaster holding on for dear life.

I know all too well how people can be reduced to stats. It happens all the time.

Years ago when I was a night police reporter, I would routinely ask grieving mothers to tell me about their dead sons.

I’d say something like, “I don’t want your son (fill in the blank) to be a statistics; what do you want the world to know about (blank)?”

Nine out of ten times, the mom would tell his story through her eyes.

He was funny. 

He played football in high school.

He wanted to be a doctor when he was a kid. 

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I’d see her sorrow and dashed hope. Sometimes I would cry for her, once I was out of her sight.

No matter how earnestly I typed, those mothers’ sons would still be stats. I’d offload his name and those details from my mind, the way people exposed to death often do. You kind of have to.

It is a harsh reality.

Stats help us understand, but they do not tell the entire story.

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You can dive deeply into them and still not see the truth.

— There are 7.58 billion people in the world, according to one U.S. Census estimate.

— As July 1, 2019, there were approximately 328,239,523 people in this country.

— The stranger I mourned was one of nearly 100,000 people who have died worldwide of this virus explained with charts and diagrams.

She was also her daughter’s only mom.

In the grand scheme of things, we are all dots on a chart.

But that’s not all we are.

We are a million things to the ones who love us.