Saturday, March 20, 2010

Census: Over the Years & Miles

Over 2000 years ago, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Everyone had to report to their birthplace to be counted. Perhaps this happened: “Mary, we must travel to my hometown, Bethlehem,” said the carpenter Joseph. He borrowed someone’s camel, directed it to sit, and carefully helped his pregnant wife struggle on between the two humps. After many days of arduous travel, they arrived and reported their number. “Two. No, make that three.”

In 2010, the United States government spent around $10 billion to count its people. The data will help the government determine how many political Representatives each state will have and how to allocate over $400 billion federal tax dollars for emergency services, hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public works projects. “Better infrastructure, more services, a brighter tomorrow for everyone,” the official Census website says. In Colorado, Erika opened her mail. Yes, she'd like a brighter future! She answered the questions in seven minutes; it would’ve been just six, but she had to remember exactly how old she was. She returned the survey to the envelope, licked it closed, and put it back in the mail, postage free (if you don’t count the taxes she pays).

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in 2006, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo called for a census in this most populous African country. Results of the 1962 census, the first since independence from British colonization, had been withdrawn. The reliability of the 1963 census was questioned, the 1973 census was discredited and never saw the light of day, and no census was conducted in 1981. When accused by people in 2006 of another inaccurate result, the President reportedly said, “If you like it, use it. You don’t like, leave it.” The problem was more complicated than how to reach people. After all, their postal system doesn’t have the motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The challenge included lack of trust and honesty by the millions of impoverished people who didn’t believe their government would deliver a brighter tomorrow for their tribe, their village, their religion. I wonder if law abiding citizens Drs. Chris and Mercy had to think about how many people resided at their small apartment that day. “Let’s see, we have our five, plus Christy the cook who’s sharing her room with two students, and our mother and her two cousins who are helping her after her hip surgery. Oh yes, let’s not forget that patient and his son we treated for gunshot wounds who slept here last night.”

Other updates: The curfew in Jos is now 9 pm to 6 am. The surgeon who is considering doing little Chris's surgery is out of the office until Tuesday. Hopefully we'll have a "yes" next week. Please keep praying!

(Photos from Google images)

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