Seeing the True Color of Numbers

By April 5, 2010 culture, faith No Comments

Numbers aren’t really my thing. When I’m put on the spot, important numbers sink into the darkened, mushy part of my brain. They are there—but inaccessible. When they behave like that, I don’t like them very much. They are sort of sneaky and ornery.

Regularly I have to concentrate to pull out my own phone number—the one I’ve had for almost 13 years. How is that possible? And once I even gave a wrong birthdate to a police officer no less—and I’ve had that number for way longer than 13 years.

So when it comes to numbers, I agree with the sentiment of this Beavis and Butt-head exchange1, which I saw many years ago on a commercial for the series:

Butt-head: I’m, like, angry at numbers.
Beavis: There’s like, too many of ’em and stuff.

I was no follower of this cartoon, but the exchange has stuck with me and warmed me just a bit to their numbers-adverse plight (or at least endeared me to their creators and writers, who must be of kindred mind to me—on this one topic, at least).

It’s not that I’m angry at numbers; they are simply flat to me. When they line up all in a row, I get foggy-eyed. They look brittle and flimsy. They are dingy gray. Numbers just don’t click with how my brain is wired. Numbers tend to clog up my brain waves.

I have trouble thinking of life in relation to numbers—so when I joined the 40 Days of Water campaign to raise money for Blood:Water Mission by drinking nothing but water for 40 days, the duration of time really didn’t click.

By the third week, it clicked. Forty days seemed like an eternity. And I was only halfway through the challenge at that point. I wanted to cave on my commitment, which is sad considering I drink water 85 percent of the time anyhow—it’s not that I was missing caffeine or milk or juice.

What was I missing? Mostly it was warm drinks like coffee and tea. You see, my brain has been conditioned to produce self-soothing vibes upon their consumption. During the first weeks of the challenge, when I was in dire need of some soothing, some fortitude, I was without my comforting brew. (I tried warm water with a touch of honey. It wasn’t very satisfying.)

Now, the challenge wasn’t awful—I didn’t have withdrawal shakes or cravings or anything like that. But I did find my brain longing for the mental escape coffee and tea provide, especially when I’m facing a lengthy stretch of project deadlines.

I was tempted to quit again at week 5, but I stuck it out and finished the challenge! Each time I found my mind fixating upon frothy flavored coffee, I chose to remember with gratitude that I have clean water any time I want it. I wasn’t all chipper at every choice; it was a refining to submit to.

How many times did I forgo non-water drinks? I’m estimating about four drinks a week for six weeks. That’s 24 non-water drinks I chose not to drink so I could send the money for Blood:Water Mission’s well-drilling work in Africa.

Most of these 24 drinks would have come from my own coffeepot here at home, so the cost savings isn’t likely very much per cup. But for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to donate $4 per drink for $96 total. With this donation, 96 people will have access to clean water for a year. In summary, that’s:

40 days of water
24 drinks given up
96 people will get water

And you know what? These numbers are not flat to me.

They are vibrant and lively. They are the color yellow, full of life. These numbers make sense to me . . . and they only make me angry in that there aren’t more people who will have access to water because of my water-only consumption.

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