Numbers, to me, have always been dull. Necessary, sure. But compelling or emotion-inducing? Definitely not. I’m someone who bought into my demotion into the “low” math group in 5th grade and never really bounced back. I retreated into my refuge of words and social sciences, save for a few painful returns to calculus and statistics.
But on Saturday night, a handful of numbers in silver paint brought me to my knees. With each chime that echoed through the silent, eager hall, another number appeared. Through tears I watched those boards present to us a number: 1,510,030.39. It launched thousands of people into the raw, soaring emotions that we come back every year to feel at BuckeyeThon.
Those 9 silver numbers might have meant something slightly different to each of us there that night. In those numbers, some saw a tribute to the angels cancer has stolen away. Some saw an affirmation to kids who are too weak to fight on their own. Some saw a promise to keep the kids we will have one day safe and healthy.
Every year, this moment comes to mean more and more to me. Each BuckeyeThon reveal marks another year of this breathtaking, heartbreaking, stressful, beautiful thing called life. It marks a year spent with family who have my back and friends who lift me up even in the midst of their own struggles. It gives me a chance to feel gratitude for every day I’ve had and will have, good and bad, because this life is ours for now but not forever.
I don’t spend every minute of my life in this gratitude, but I can always count on BuckeyeThon to bring it back. As I made my way through the crowd, exhausted but elated, my friends hugged me and told me not to cry. I said nothing and just hugged them tighter; no words at that point could explain that I was happy-crying about each of them.
I cried for the way they have challenged, inspired and changed me, one another and the world this year. I cried because they remind me that people are selfless and brave and hopeful. I cried because they deserve the world, and yet they barely notice because they’re too busy trying to give it to people they haven’t even met.