I read a statistic the other day that was quite shocking to me. It said that 93% of America has access to clean drinking water. So, which way was I shocked? To most, 93% of something is quite good. Like, holy cow, that’s an overwhelming majority of people that can get clean water! But, I went ahead and did the math. According to the last census, the United States has a population of around 330 million. Divide this, multiply that, subtract the 1…and viola, you get the number of human beings that can gulp down fresh, filtered, pure water. 93% of 330,000,000 equals 306,900,000. “Wow that’s awesome!” you think. But further math reveals that 330,000,000 minus 306,900,000 equals 23,100,000. In shorthand, that’s 23 million people. The statistic isn’t looking so good right now, huh. I mean, how great is it that I’m part of the 306 million with pure water, but the calculation reveals that over 23 million Americans don’t have access to clean drinking water. 23 million! What a travesty!
For most Americans, water does not get a second thought. It flows at the turn of a knob, at a cost that is all but negligible. And now we find out that 7% of our country doesn’t have access to the pure version of it? Oh the humanity! How in the name of all things that are good and abundant do we have 23 million people in the greatest nation on earth not having access to clean drinking water? Did we not build enough pipes? Did we run out of water treatment plants? Is this the result of some engineering failure? For context, the entire state of Florida has a population of around 21 million people. And the city of Shanghai China has 28 million. So that’d be like the entire population of these places drinking water that is less than desirable, not meeting EPA standards and therefore putting their health at risk.
93%. Sounded good at first, didn’t it? You didn’t give that 7% much thought…until we did the math. Statistics are like that, aren’t they? Politicians and news anchors and sports analysts throw out statistics and percentages so quickly, we barely have time to think about them, to process them. For instance, in the 1960s, Dr. Mehrabian concluded that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. So why do we spend so much time getting our spoken words right? In 2018, a study found that 93% of bottled water contains microplastics. But there’s a 7% chance it doesn’t, or better said, we don’t know what microplastics are, so we’ll take our chances and continue to drink from plastic water bottles. It continues. 93% of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is damaged by coral bleaching (a sudden rise in water temperature destroys the natural color of the coral). How about this one: a study by Cambridge University concluded that police complaints dropped by 93% after the force deployed body cameras. You’re getting the point, but just one more to stir the pot a bit. Liz Cheney voted with Trump 93% of her congressional career.
So many statistics. So much math. But my point is clear. Don’t forget about the 7%. Better said: Don’t miss the other side of the statistic. In life, there will be those that are marginalized and minoritized. They have a voice too. The vast majority may have a bigger stance, but let’s not forget about those less fortunate than us. Let’s not forget that simple math can reveal that millions of people don’t have access to something that we take for granted every day. I’m trying to get better at this. At thinking about those in the minority. Those I disagree with. They have feelings too. Though marginalized, they matter. They have lives and jobs and kids and families to support. Just because they aren’t heard doesn’t mean they shouldn’t speak.
Next time I see a statistic that seems overwhelmingly in my favor, I’m hopeful that I remember to do the math, and determine how much of the other side of something there is. I’m hopeful that if it’s meaningful enough to me, that I’d choose to do something about it. We each were created on purpose, for a purpose. We’re all in this together. Let’s choose to help and support one another. To show love and kindness no matter what the statistics may reveal. Because one thing is certain, right now, we’re 100% alive. And we can make this day count.
Let’s give today our all and live on purpose to the fullest!