“May is the fifth month of the year. Write a letter to the number five explaining why five is important. Be serious or be funny. Either way, here’s a high five to you for being original.”
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While I could have written about the cultural significance of Cinco De Mayo in my family or the number I wore on the football field, I instead chose a much more personal topic. My mother passed away from colon cancer when I was five years old. This traumatic event changed my life forever. After my father left the picture, my two siblings and I spent several difficult years in foster care. The brisk Oregon air never smelled sweeter than when I received the news that a permanent home awaited me in New Jersey. Life’s uncertainties undoubtedly took a toll on me, but I was optimistic about having a fresh start with my adoptive aunt and uncle. After the adoption papers were officially signed, I received the best gift in my entire life–three new siblings! I grew up in a busy household. Each of us had a unique personality and interests, yet we lived together in harmony–at least most of the time. Having the constant support of five siblings was incredibly reassuring. I will always cherish the lessons I learned and the memories I’ve had with my brothers and sisters, and I look forward to a lifetime of laughter. I can’t deny we often received looks as our family of eight occupied multiple pews at mass on Sundays, but I wouldn’t trade a thing for my five siblings. “Power, that’s one thing, but love of family and of siblings is more important, is more powerful than any other power…” – Sander Levin
A symbol of goodness and grace. Since ancient times, the number five represented love. Most people may not consider the number influential on their life journey. For myself, this number followed me on my servant leadership path, serving as a marker of impact, success, passion, perseverance, and growth. At 15 years old, I founded a food charity known as Boxing It Up to Give Thanks, an initiative that provided boxed Thanksgiving meals to those in need and served as a platform for young leaders to advocate for food security.
My family has had the privilege of sponsoring five children through Compassion International: Panyan, Samuel, Yaw, Adaliza, and Kodjo. Though thousands of miles away, they remain a symbol of love and an illuminating reminder of the impact proper nutrition can have on children. Over the years, I witnessed them thrive. Smiles began appearing in photographs. Passion for children across the globe inspired me to cultivate change locally. Food insecurity has a prominent presence in WV. Feeding America estimates that 1 in 5 children go hungry. In Boxing It Up? founding year, the initiative raised $5,000. The second year, the program prospered and built roots in five North Central West Virginia (NCWV) high schools, distributing 500 boxed Thanksgiving meals to five school backpack programs and five NCWV food pantries. Heading into our fifth year of service, Boxing It Up continues to build a legacy thanks to five small children half a world away!
For the fifth time, I stretch out my hands before me and don’t believe what I see. Where once there lay five fingers on each hand, now lay empty voids. Three on the left, two on the right. For the fifth time I remember what my hands used to do. I remember the fifth branch of the tree in my backyard that I would climb. I remember the five warm fingers of my fifth love in my grasp as we walked down 5th Street. I remember being fifth in line at the recruiting office. I remember my squadron being sent fifth, I remember high fiving my friend before we left, I remember the five hours I laid in the dirt after the grenade went off. I remember the fives, the fives I can’t escape.
Look at me. I’m obsessing. The number five has become my nightmare. But now I remember the good it still represents. The five soldiers whose lives I saved from ambush. The five civilians I got to safety. The five fingers on my daughter’s hands that still tickle my chest when I’ve had a hard day. And my hands – three on the left, two on the right makes five. Five fingers that I still have, five fingers I could have lost too, five fingers to remind me I’m still alive. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression – I’ve gone through them all. I think I’m ready to move on to the fifth stage – Acceptance.
Kingston Springs, TN
A perfect five is the number all students strive for when taking any Advanced Placement test. The elusive score escaped my grasp last year when I attempted the AP Chemistry test. Even after months of studying and an all-nighter of cramming, my efforts were no match for the difficulty of the questions. This year, I have a second chance at obtaining the precious five. My calculus teacher has prepared me endlessly for the AP Calculus AB test. He says that earning a five in high school is an investment with benefits meant for me to reap in college. I would save time and money in the long run, and, along with the tangible benefits of a five, the score provides a personal satisfaction, a mental pat-on-the-back for months of hard work.
From my point of view, a three or four will suffice, but only a five will satisfy. Striving to attain the best is not a personality trait that should be vilified, but the flaw is that I have come to associate self-worth with a number unattainable to my abilities, whether that idea of perfection comes in a five, one-hundred, thirty-six, or sixteen-hundred. Between the reminders that a five is a number with temporary value from my friends and that a five is a number that determines your future from my teachers, I struggle to see past the realm of ranks and percentiles and towards a future where I cannot rely on numbers alone.
Penn Valley, CA
Humanity seems to divide itself around the number five. There are five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot, five basic senses, and consequently five as a number factors heavily into society. Important numerical amounts almost always are divisible by five; the one, five, ten, twenty, to one hundred dollar bills in the USA, analog clocks center around increments of five, and important landmarks around dates divisible by five. For example, the Spanish holiday Cinco de Mayo revolves around the fifth day of the fifth month, or Christmas taking place on the 25th, a date amounting to five squared. There are several pieces of symbolism around the number five. Five corresponds to the number of points on pentagram, the Heirophant in the Tarot deck, the Fifth house of the Zodiac, home to Leo and the Sun, the Olympic rings symbolizing five continents, and the Investigator Enneagram type. Since five relates to the human digit, any symbolism involving human hands and feet invariably brings in the number five. Perhaps the reason for the number’s cycling throughout popular culture is based on this prominence of fives on the body. With five limbs, including arms, legs and head, and five digits on each hand and finger, the number has always been a part of standard human equipment. Therefore, basing many different themes, traditions and symbols around the number may spring from our anatomy. If you look carefully, you can see the number everywhere.
Remember when everyone was lined up? A couple scrawny freshmen but mostly upperclassmen leaning in that brick hallway. I got last pick so I was stuck with you, the one nobody wanted. Not to be disappointed, I guess a number is a number. But you were my number. You were the number on my back. I wore you on my jersey for four years. We shared the rain, sweat, and blood of high school soccer. You were with me for thirty-six goals, every win, and every loss. We beat under the sun together until you were cracked and faded. We bore the trials of mud and snow. You became my reputation. Other coaches would know me by number. Watch out for number five. Somebody mark number five. My sister would make signs that read “Strive to be as good as Five.” I had pride in you. You were me.
And now I still know you. You give me songs from the Jackson Five, the Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack, and memories of summer. Without you there is no Cinco de Mayo or parties in Spanish class with my favorite teacher. There is no five more minutes of playing video games with my little five-year-old brother before bed. There would not be five brothers bound together in my family. You are a strong number.
You and I are connected in my past and memories of you drive me towards the future.
I’m sorry it must end this way. It isn’t what I wanted. A scribbled note — such a trope from a bygone era I know you’d never approve of. Then again, maybe that’s why I’m leaving. We never did quite fit, did we? Don’t write and don’t try to find me. I’ve gone on the five o’clock train, so it’s too late. Just remember the time we had — that May in Cancun, that last Cinco de Mayo together, our fifth-anniversary party. Remember how your five digits gripped mine as we boarded the plane to leave just days before that category-five hurricane swept the coast? I thought you’d never let go. You loved me then, didn’t you?
I think my senses will remember you most — all five. When you begin to fade, I’ll smell your perfume on a passing stranger and remember. Chanel, wasn’t it? No. 5, of course. I know you’ll be better without me. I was absentee at best and I don’t want to lie anymore, so I’m coming clean in this letter. I’m not an accountant in the five boroughs. I work for the CIA and regularly with her majesty’s secret police (MI-5). I’m trusting you to burn this letter now that you know the truth. You were never a fool, Cinq. I’m sorry I treated you this way. I have to leave. Send the quintuplets my love.
Yours Truly, Quinton
Five, being the first good prime, always assumed she was better than everyone else. She was the untouchable one (and not to mention the only one of her odd kind). She was boron’s atomic number for heavens sake, doesn’t that mean anything to anyone? Those morons, she would think.
With white collar felons, doped up baseball players, alleged communist, and rebel spies constantly pleading her, she was hard to get to. Yet, I loved her so. With Five, I was alive. Perhaps it was her Coco Chanel perfume that attracted to me first but all it took was a workweek and my maroon heart was in the shape of the pentagon. Next thing I know, I’m writing sonnets in iambic pentameter for her.
I wish I could say she loved me back. I wish I could say we were a perfect fifth, in consonant harmony. But she tore through me like a tropical cyclone, only destruction left in her wake.
Five changed my life. Before her, I had nothing to live four. Now I know what love is and I can move on to the sexy prime of my life. I still see her everywhere. The number of seconds I have to eat before the donut is ruining for good, the number of elements that compose my universe, the number of Jackson’s that occupied my cassette player. And I know I will always be able to count on her.
A bumpy ride in a wooden wagon. Mouths vibrating—a childish war call. Padded elbows pushed up against splintering beams. Squeezing my eyes shut, I wished the length of the yard would last forever. How much longer, Dad?
Five more minutes.
Those days we spent in blanket forts. Hidden in a world of fleece and cushions. An empire built out of rickety chairs and ruled by sunburnt heroes. The tick of the clock felt rushed—grownups must use faulty batteries. They whispered to my mother that it was time to leave. Guess what kids?
You only get five more minutes.
I wish I could shrink back into the age of hiccups and buttercups and the magical number five. My world could come crashing down with the thought of five more minutes. Sheer agony, ripping apart my joyous existence.
Five always seemed like a threat. An end. But looking back, I see the beauty in those three hundred seconds.
Words that were able to be spoken. Storms we escaped in our havens of sheets and quilts. Tummy tickling bumps on wagons that made up my childhood.
One day I’ll break it to my children. I’ll dash their dreams and end their playdates with that warning. “Five more minutes.” Three hundred more seconds to enjoy this slice of life.
But what they might not notice—until five or fifteen or fifty years later—is that there’s no end to the immeasurable number of gifts wrapped within the ever elusive miracle of five.
Solana Beach, CA
Five was my age when I met him; he was just the older boy next door.Over time we became best friends: five years, then five years more.
Five, you are the number of minutes it tookto sign his life away.You are the number of hours I spentbegging him to stay.
Now he represents our country, and that building with five sides.You are the number of nights I had nightmares, afraid for him to fight.
You are the number of years on his contract,times a thousand miles away.You are the number of months without contact;the minutes we got for that phone call, once it finally came.
Five care-packages, five letters, five times thirty sleepless nights.Five friends lost during that deployment,Rest in peace, Semper Fi.
Five, you were the number of days left,when I finally started to count down.Times 100 gives the number of facesthat were there when that plane touched the ground.Five sisters, five brothers, five mothers, five fathers;Five minutes, five seconds, that felt like five hours.
Five, you are the number of men who stepped off before he;the number of crying families that stood before me.
You are the number of seconds it took,before I, too, began to sob.When I saw him step off that plane in one piece,five is the number of times I thanked God.
Thank you, Five, for being a number I can count on.
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