“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic” – Joseph Stalin
I used to share slides with statistics of missing children in Malaysia, children sold into labour or for sexual exploitation. I have journeyed with a number of such children and adults in the Tenaganita Shelter for Trafficked survivors (2005-2011). The statistics reveal the shocking gravity of the situation. But, these will still remain just as numbers until that one child is ours, or is someone who we know.
A face is personal. A face belongs to a human person with dignity and intrinsic value. A face has a name, a personality, a family, a story. It is not a mere abstract attached to a statistic. This Exposed Campaign (Micah Challenge, 2012) slogan tells it all too well:
Corruption has a Name.
Poverty has a Face.
You have a Voice.
These days we are also fixated on statistics – How many Covid positive cases today? How many have died? Because this pandemic has gone on for so long, some of us have become numbed when seeing the numbers. Recently, Rama posted some haunting pictures on his Facebook about those dead from Covid, and the mass graves. The last time I remember mass graves being mentioned were the ones at Wang Kelian, near Perlis in 2015 where 147 such graves were discovered in transit camps, where human beings were caged, tortured, killed and buried.
But, that is still too far away from us. When it is someone close to us, or someone we know, it hits us in another way – our world gets turned upside down.
I had just picked Encik J from the budget hotel he had checked himself into, for the last five days, because he needed a decent place to rest. He looked sad and forlorn, having lost weight because he kept vomiting and was not able to keep anything down.
His day home is the playground where the Tamarind tree is (see my previous column); the bench is his bed, the railings his laundry hanger. His clock was the sun, the moon and the skies. He just wanted to lay his head down in a place away from the wind, the heat and the rains. Not unlike another dear FRIEND I know, who also had no place to lay HIS head.
He had been complaining of a cough and had no appetite. A cough mixture brought a bit of relief. He couldn’t eat the lunch I brought that day, so I bought him some bread, bananas and milo packs. Then, he went missing – he wasn’t at his friend’s flat, he wasn’t at the bus stop, he was nowhere to be found, and I began to imagine the worst. Finally, after a police report, he was tracked down to the hotel by an efficient Chinese lady Police Sargent (strange that the police already had my contact details before I told them!). Imagine my sense of joy and relief knowing that he was still alive, because I did not want to repeat my last Facebook post entitled, “This one did not survive”! It would be too heart breaking.
But, when I saw the double line on the Covid saliva-test kit for J, my heart sank to a new low. I shot up a pleading glance and asked, “Are Your Eyes still on this sparrow?”
This ‘sparrow’ was lost and found, currently being treated at a Covid Quarantine Centre together with 2,588 others. Yes, ONE in the midst of 2,588.
Statistics may give us perspective, but it’s that ONE stray sheep that Jesus will go searching for, leaving the 99 in the mountains. The injured sheep, the widows, the orphans, the foreigners, the poor, are especially precious to Him.
“ONE LIFE at a time”, is the motto of SERVE, the organisation I worked with in Afghanistan.
“ONE LIFE Do Something”, is the tagline for the World Vision One Life Revolution Project 2009. I still have that t-shirt.
This article was triggered by Adeline’s post on our BLC Family Chat, on Loren Eisley’s story of the boy picking starfish and throwing them back one by one into the ocean. When told it was a futile exercise since there were SO MANY of them, he replied with a smile on his face:
“I made a difference for that ONE.”
And the ONE above smiles together with him!