Statistics desensitize and disengage us

USA ostomy and cancer statisitics:

  • 120,000 new ostomy patients every year (I have a colostomy and fall in this group for 2011)
  • 700,000 people living with an ostomy
  • 1.6 million new cancer cases every year (I fall in this group for 2011) (stats exclude in situ non-invasive cancer)
  • Approx. 1 million in situ non-invasive cancer cases a year (not tracked – what I had in 2007)
  • 11.4 million cancer survivors (Worldwide: 28 million cancer survivors)

The individual and the problems he or she is personally facing oftentimes become depersonalized and lost in the enormous numbers offered by nationwide … and even worldwide … statistics.   The challenges of making an impact upon such vast numbers beyond our grasp will at times simply cause us to disengage from the problem altogether … we become desensitized to the plight of the individuals in those numbers due to the insurmountable odds present in the overall statistics.

OK, maybe that sounds a bit accusatory.

Let me rephrase as a confession: “The opening paragraph is a perfect explanation of how I have responded for most of my 58 years … guilty Lord.”

I am reminded of a story that circulates through my e-mail from time to time … I will try to retell it from memory.

An old man was walking down the beach late one afternoon.  The tide was going out but had not yet reached low tide.  And as he walked at water’s edge toward the setting sun he was struck by the reflections of thousands of starfish stranded by the retreating tides.

A short distance ahead, he spotted a young girl stooped down examining one of the thousands of stranded starfish.  Suddenly she picked up the still living starfish and gently tossed it back into the ocean.  Before he reached her, she had done the same thing a few more times.

He really could not understand what she hoped to accomplish and as he drew near a question began to take shape in his mind which he knew he must ask:

“Young lady, I have been watching you for the last few minutes picking up stranded starfish one by one and tossing them back into the ocean.  Yet there are thousands and thousands of stranding starfish … you can’t possibly make a difference?”

The young girl was silent … almost contemplative.

Then she stooped over into the sand, found a starfish whose wiggling arms indicated life, gently picked it up, tossed it out into the ocean as far as she could, and looked up into the man’s belittling eyes and confidently said, …

“What I just did for that starfish made a difference for that one …”

Without waiting for a response, she left the man to consider her words and observe her deeds as she continued down the beach … rescuing starfish … one by one.

From a scriptural perspective, reading Matthew 25:31-46 will only add clarity to that story as will the deeds and a number of insightful quotes from the life of Mother Teresa.

Lord, forgive me for being like the old man and help me to be like the young girl … sensitive and responsive to the needs of the one …

Help me not only as I am the one but also help me to see the one Lord!



About bwebbjr

A grandfather, father, husband, man, and a child of God who is following Christ Jesus and working out his salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work IN me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). I dodged my first bullet with cancer when a cancerous polyp was removed in a sigmoid colectomy surgery in August 2007. Four years later, in the midst of a second colectomy surgery we discovered I had Stage IV metastatic colon cancer. Rather than colectomy surgery I had colostomy surgery, which now means the colostomy bag is a part of my everyday life ... with the emphasis on life. God has given us a peace beyond understanding as my wife and I have traveled this journey. By the grace of God I am blessed to be a 6 plus year cancer survivor aka warrior. In writing, I am often wrestling with my own personal struggles and beliefs and in the midst God leads me to a lesson He wants me to learn ... or sometimes He simply touches me in the revelation of Himself. My hope is that the result you see here might touch your heart and glorify God. And let me be clear ... I am not the only one with something to say. Please join in the conversation sharing your faith, your cancer experiences, etc. I would love to hear from you. Bernie
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