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.