On knowing it all…

The weird part about working with data is that you get to know a lot of things. Someone once asked me the hardest part about working in analytics. I told her the greatest challenge was that you often had “the answers”, but few people were willing to listen.

With time, experience, and many failures I learned that it was never my data – it was me. Why would a room full of doctors just listen to me? Because I have analyst in my title? Because my bar charts are formatted well? Because I have a certain degree from a certain school?

A few weeks ago some friends told me about our acquaintance “Jill” who was going to be teaching people how to evangelize. If you’re not familiar, evangelism is (essentially) trying to convert someone to become a Christian.

After we found out this information our group of friends sat silently with a pregnant pause. Jill is educated, with tons of experience. Jill may be a terrific theologian. But then we all thought about our interactions with her. When I think of some of my top ten hurts, she has two in the top ten. She can be mean, judgemental, and a know-it-all (as a fellow know-it-all – we can spot our own).

The saying is true. We don’t care how much Jill knows, because she doesn’t seem to care about us at all.

I’ll probably never be a famous theologian, and I don’t quite have the raw charisma to turn the masses. But I know Jesus invited Zachias down from a tree, and asked him to hang out. And when others treated children as annoying, Jesus invited them to come in.

Did Jesus ask children their worldview? Did He make kids memorize every religious text? Did He tell them about the evils of drums or guitars in church?

I’ve seldom felt close to God sitting in the pews of church. I hate standing and singing because it all feels like a production to me. I have attended church 30+ years mostly out of guilt.

When I think back on my experiences within Church, I always learned the most when I got to teach children in Sunday School. I find more truth in the simplicity of kid’s lessons than I ever have from the complexity of people defining Greek words from Exodus.

My daughter’s understanding of Jesus seems the most honest and true of all. She knows Jesus loves her no matter what, and she knows He died for her. I have never understood why we need to make it more complicated than that? The faith of a child is the most beautiful thing.

We add mission statements and complex phrases. We yell at each other over stupid policies. But sometimes it feels like screaming into the wind. I really don’t know how much Jesus would care about these trivial fights. Maybe some theologians like Jill do have it all right, and I’m just a little heretic writing a silly blog?

But I know in my heart that I still care and pray for the children I had the privilege of teaching in Sunday School. I remember the blonde haired blue-eyed little kid I got to meet when he was eight months old. I remember holding him and telling him that he was so loved. It’s fantastic seeing some of the same kids grow into amazing people. I pray life is good to them.

I presented some data on COPD at work the other day. My data was good. But when I started to imagine the people behind the numbers it made me start to cry.

In front of the room I said, “here’s all the data, but someone I know very close to me has COPD and here’s what she struggles with…” I can tell you the numbers, but I can also tell you about these wonderful humans I learned from. With that moment of humanity the room turned. A new project started, and ideas turned into actions.

No one cared how much I knew until they realized how much I cared. And when we don’t care about others why should they bother to listen to us at all?

On my mission field…

You haven’t lived until you’ve cried in front of your boss. You new-ish boss.

Someone very close to me has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD does not kill you, but it makes your life very uncomfortable. People COPD are often short of breath, they may wheeze a lot, and they are prone to respiratory infections. Watching this person I love live with COPD is difficult. They have trouble walking quickly, and sometimes they struggle to breath. For most people, breathing is just what we do. But with COPD – breathing is difficult.

Working as an analyst at a hospital I’m asked for a lot of data. A few weeks ago my boss asked if I could pull data on COPD, and then present the findings to a group of leaders. The data pull was simple enough. Login, enter the parameters, some excel stuff – and presto – COPD data.

But then I had to present the data.

I drove to the meeting alone and thought about what I was going to say. The more I thought about COPD, the more I thought about the person I love. The more I thought about the person I love struggling to grab air, I started to cry.

I see more data than you can ever imagine; rows and columns of numbers and percentages. I have login after login for number after number. My excel sheets have excel sheets.

But in health care, numbers aren’t numbers – they are people.

And in this report – COPD wasn’t just a diagnosis code – it was a person.

And this person, was someone I love.

I’ve worked as an analyst for about 10 years. I’ve pulled data on everything from Pop Tarts to Free Press page views. I’ve always believed my role as a data analyst is special. I get to be the person that sees all of this data, and hears from ALL of these people, and I get to summarize what I see to people that can make changes. I feel humbled to be this person that gets to represent so many voices.

Tell a VP about the year-over-year percent change and why we’re flat? Not a problem.

Market share reports for the north region? You got it.

But yesterday, for the first time in my life, the data I was going to speak on represented someone close to me. And even though I practiced what I would say, I could not get past the tears.

I got to the meeting looking like a soggy mess and had to tell my boss, “I can’t stop crying. I need you to do this.” And she did, because she’s fantastic. Then, my tears brought forth conversation. My boss and I began talking about this person I love, and how with this data – maybe we can help more people. I think we will.

For the first time in my adult life I get to work in the community where I live. These numbers are my neighbors, and people I care about. When I talk about them, I’m talking about people I love.

I may never lead a church or travel to another country to preach. But these numbers are my purpose. And when I speak about them, I know that this is what I was always meant to do.

Yesterday, I fell in love with my job.

Yesterday, everything became real.

 Today, and tomorrow, and every day after – numbers are my mission field.