For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. – Psalm 139:13
For some time I’ve struggled to grasp the fact that there are almost seven and a half billion human beings living on planet Earth. I spell out the words here because 7½ is just a number, and the concept of a billion anythings is a challenge to truly comprehend. What makes it hard to understand is that each one of us is unique – even down to small details like fingerprints and the irises of our eyes.
For those of us who believe in the Creator, it is comforting and sustaining to know that he loves each one of us with an infinite love – all 7½ billion of us – not to mention the billions of people who lived before us and those whose lives are yet to start. How great is our God, and how great his love!
Try to wrap your brain around the idea of 7½ billion people. Try to picture it. It’s not too hard to visualize a stadium of people. But that’s only tens of thousands. Even pictures of The Million Man March only give the impression of a huge “numberless” crowd. In order to determine what a crowd of any size looks like, we need to use some known area as a comparative scale. As crowds get larger, the distance from them must be increased in order to observe them, which makes individuals appear smaller and smaller, eventually blurring together into something vague and impersonal.
I wondered what it would look like if I were flying in an airplane and saw one square mile filled with people. How many people would that be? One popular website said a square mile filled with people standing “shoulder to shoulder” would hold about 625,000 persons. But that didn’t seem quite right to me. Simple computation with my calculator produced far different results.
A mile consists of 5,280 feet, giving a square mile a total of 27,878,400 square feet (5,280 X 5,280). Dividing the square feet by 625,000 persons allots 44.6 square feet per person (an area of more than 6½’ by 6½’). That is hardly “shoulder to shoulder”. I wanted to picture people standing closer together, so I based my calculations on an area of 4 square feet (2′ by 2′) for each individual to stand in.
A football field consists of 87,750 square feet. Allowing each person to occupy 4 square feet, 21,937 people could stand together on a football field. I can picture that. But a million persons, each taking up 4 square feet, would need 4 million square feet (2,000′ X 2,000′) or about 45½ football fields! How high up in an airplane would you have to be to see that clearly? Would you be able to differentiate individuals?
Using the same standard of 4 square feet per person, a square mile would accommodate 6,969,600 persons (27,878,400 square feet divided by 4 square feet). Can you picture looking down at a square mile of people from an airplane? At the distance required to see a square mile full of people, all you could discern would be colors and textures, like a farmer’s field. In order to see them all, you must be far away – too far to be able to discern individuals. All you can see is a fuzzy crowd.
The point I am trying to make is, the human mind is only capable of comprehending the totality of humanity in the abstract. 7½ billion people is too great a concept to picture. Even just one thousanth of that figure (7½ million) is beyond our comprehension. When we try to picture it, it’s only a blur.
And yet, we know in our hearts that these numbers beyond our comprehension are made up of individuals with value, persons who matter, who dream, who love and are loved, a humanity that seeks meaning, discovery and acheivement, yet too often finds bitter survival their only reward.
When I think of my own capacity to love and to care for my fellow human beings, I realize I fall far short of being able to love 7½ billion people. My capacity, as with the capacity of everyone else on the globe, is to care for those in my own little corner of the world.
And sometimes, we can join together to help folks in their little corners, on other continents, and that’s what’s so great about over-seas missions. They give us the opportunity to reach out and touch great crowds of humanity we can’t even see or might not even imagine. That’s part of what love is all about.
God loved the world so much he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. We love because he first loved us. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8
Think about the nearly 7½ billion souls in our world. God loves each one. We may not be able to deal with so many people, but surely we can all reach out to someone – someone we can see clearly in our own little corner of the world.