A Census Worth Remembering

Luke is really excited about putting up the tree lights.

Perhaps it was the upcoming Christmas season, but I couldn’t help but think of the national 10 year census in the country of Ecuador in light of another national census taken many, many years ago in the Europe and Asia.

Luke 2:1-5 (NIV)

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.” 

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Well, I’m glad that census-taking has become a little more sophisticated in the 21st century, but I still wonder about the decisions made by Ecuador’s political leaders in deciding how to do a national census.  I don’t know if the census was done in the same way ten years ago, but this time around they decided to “volunteer” the middle and high school students from all the Ecuadorian public schools to participate as census takers.  They actually gave the students several days off from classes so that they could be trained properly in the method of gathering census information.

The plan was to send all these students out on one day to gather the census data while everyone else stayed in their homes “waiting to be counted.” Each student would be assigned a specific sector of the city in which they lived and a police officer would accompany them all day as they made their rounds to different homes. 

Perhaps that seems strange to societies in which a dependable, mail-service system is in place.  In the United States, the national census is always conducted through a mailed “form” being sent to select homes.  Some homes get a short form and others get a “long form” in which they seem to be asked all kinds of strange questions about their home and property.  In Ecuador, the post office system is anything but reliable.  Mail is lost on a regular basis.  Any valuables are at risk of being stolen, even by the post office employees themselves.

Regardless of how the census data is collected, there is always a certain amount of controversy about the questions asked and how the collected data will be used.

The day scheduled for the 2010 Ecuadorian national census was the final Sunday of November; which was November 28.  Businesses were required to stay closed that day.  No church could hold a service.  No one was to leave their homes on that day unless they had special permission (a.k.a. if they were a police officer, hospital employee or a guard. Stephen and I received a little paper in our mailbox from a middle school student attending the nearby military academy.  Little Alex said he would be coming by our home on November 28, and he requested that we wait there for him. 

That day was the final day of our Thanksgiving vacation.  Since we had nowhere else to go, we spent the day putting up the Christmas tree and decorating our home for the holidays.  At about 4:30 in the afternoon, we received a call that our little census taker was on school property and that he would visit us after he talked to another couple who lived in the same building. 

An hour later, we received another phone call from the school guard saying that the boy had already left because he ran out of time.  So, we never got counted as part of the census. 

Jared and Luke help put the limbs on our artificial Christmas tree.